Posey gets crash course from Giants
First-round pick on fast track to Majors despite inexperience
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Among the gifts Buster Posey received during a day held in his honor in his native Leesburg, Ga., earlier this month was a ceremonial key to the city.
Posey knows that such tokens won't help him unlock the secrets to succeeding as a Major League catcher. Instead of pomp and circumstance, he'll require "education and development," as Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said.Fortunately for Posey, the Giants are happy to make sure he gets plenty of both. As San Francisco's No. 1 selection (fifth overall) from last June's First-Year Player Draft, Posey symbolizes the franchise's future virtually as much as Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, given the Giants' renewed emphasis on producing their own talent. If Posey flounders, lack of attention won't be a reason. Despite his high profile, Posey blended in with the other Giants during Sunday's first workout for pitchers and catchers -- until batting practice. Then Posey sprayed line drives all over the field, demonstrating the prowess that prompted San Francisco to pay him a club-record $6.2 million bonus. Though Posey faced the relatively unchallenging serves of coaches, his smooth swing and authoritative contact made him separate among equals. But BP sessions won't hasten Posey's arrival in the big leagues. Having played 10 regular-season professional games and about to turn 22 next month, he needs experience. Some talent evaluators believe that Posey could reach the Majors sometime this year.
"I think we're always going to stay open-minded," manager Bruce Bochy said, referring to players such as Pablo Sandoval who opened last season with Class A San Jose and ended it with the Giants. But being a catcher, baseball's most demanding position, lengthens Posey's learning curve.Brian Harper, the Giants' roving catching instructor, said that most proficient catchers play at least 200 to 300 games in the Minor Leagues before they're ready for The Show. "The biggest thing for him is the game-calling," said Harper, who noted that amateur players rarely call pitches and thus must refine this skill after turning pro. "I don't think he's going to have a problem because he's a smart kid. He just needs to play some games." An infielder until his sophomore season at Florida State University, Posey has caught for just two seasons. That could be considered a liability, since it reflects his lack of seasoning at the position. It also could reflect his aptitude, since he has advanced so far so quickly. "The biggest thing I like about Buster personally is that he really wants to learn and soaks up knowledge," Harper said. "He's very teachable. I think that's special for a high Draft pick." Said Bochy, a former catcher, "I like the way he receives. He's very confident back there and he throws well." Posey laughed when he was reminded that he has been likened to B.J. Surhoff and Joe Mauer, other catchers who ascended rapidly to the Majors.
"Any comparison with those guys, that's a really nice compliment," Posey said. "But that's not my job to make those comparisons."Posey's job, particularly while he's in camp with the Giants, is to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Sunday, for example, Bengie Molina tutored him on executing the proper footwork on pitchouts -- a subtlety that distinguishes a polished catcher from a poor one. It was an intriguing scene, given Molina's eligibility for free agency after this season. If he doesn't leave the Giants next winter, he could be jettisoned in a midseason trade if they aren't competitive. Either scenario could hasten Posey's arrival in the Majors. None of this concerned Molina as he showed Posey how best to emerge from a crouch. "I've never been a hypocrite and I've never been a guy who wishes somebody else bad," said Molina, winner of the "Willie Mac" Award as the most inspirational Giant in both of his seasons with the team. "Even if you're the guy who might take my position, I don't care. If I can help him to be a better person and a better player ... I'll get more satisfaction than if I didn't try." Posey's ready to listen to Molina and anybody else who can accelerate his improvement. People who sing his praises won't drown out the advice he gets. "My goal is to stay as grounded as I possibly can. I think that has to do with my family and the way I was raised," said Posey, who's one of four children and married his high school sweetheart, Kristen, last month. "Hopefully I can continue on that path." If that happens, Leesburg, Ga., will have even more reason to celebrate.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.