05/27/08 10:00 AM ET
Draft's eyes are on FSU's Posey
FSU catcher can play everywhere; may go first overall to Rays
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
He is Florida State University's catcher, the team's defensive-minded backstop and captain of the infield.
Or perhaps he is their clutch performer, hitting a pinch-hit two-run ninth-inning single to help lift the Seminoles over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament on Saturday.
The junior began the week leading the nation with an .858 slugging percentage, and is a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities from the mound.
Call his range of talent unfair: The right-hander is fifth in the country in runs scored, yet has not allowed a batter to cross the plate in the 7 1/3 innings he's thrown from the mound.
Call his efforts illogical: Posey played all nine positions in a game on May 12 against Savannah State, in which the 21-year-old also plated a grand slam.
Just don't call Posey a typical college standout.
"You just don't find a guy like Buster Posey every five years," said FSU head coach Mike Martin. "They don't come around every five years; they come around about every 15. And this kid is special."
Martin describes Posey's year as the "most phenomenal" he's witnessed in 29 years at the Seminoles' helm, an honor in itself when you consider the source.
Martin has coached 70 All-Americas, five of whom have been National Player of the Year, including current Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, who also went on to win the Dick Howser Trophy, considered to be the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for baseball. (Posey is currently a finalist.)
In that season, Drew eclipsed 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs, becoming the first college player to achieve that feat.
Still, Martin casts his bet on the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Posey, who -- up until Saturday -- had started in every game since his arrival in 2006, a streak of 184 straight starts.
"We are talking about a guy catching 99 percent of the games, and then, with the game on the line, taking off the gear and closing the game off pitching," Martin said. "So, there's no way you can compare what he's done [with other players], because you can't do any more."
Being a backstop wasn't part of the original blueprint for Posey, who spent his freshman year as an All-America shortstop.
But it didn't take long for the Seminoles' gamble to hit paydirt, as the Georgia native thrived in the new position, posting a .944 fielding average and throwing out 40.9 percent of potential basestealers during his sophomore campaign, Posey's first season as a catcher.
"I'm definitely more comfortable [behind the plate]," Posey said. "Catching a full season last year in college [and] catching in the Cape [Cod League], I thought I had a lot of opportunities to get better. What I enjoy so much about the position is it's something I've had to learn -- I've enjoyed learning the oddities of catching."
The finance major is as much a student of the classroom -- posting a perfect 4.0 grade-point average last spring -- as he is a student of the game.
"You have to get the fundamentals down to start with, [but] obviously when a Major League game comes on TV, I'll try to soak in what I can from those guys," said Posey, who models himself after Boston's Jason Varitek.
Like the Red Sox captain, Posey possesses an uncanny ability to steer the ship.
The ACC Player of the Year leads the conference in eight categories, and is the nation's top offensive player; batting .471 with a .571 on-base percentage and a .858 slugging percentage.
Scouts have been raving about the powerful performer for years, but Posey, who was a 50th-round pick of the Angels in the 2005 Draft but didn't sign, has never quite bought into the hype.
After all, Posey opted to go to Florida State over what could have been an accelerated path to the Major Leagues. Ask the junior about life off the diamond, and the phenom talks about studying for tests and the delicate balance of student-athlete life. Question why he envies Varitek's career and there is nary a mention of the catcher's two World Series wins.
Instead, the Seminoles star shows striking maturity.
"He has an aura," Posey said of Varitek. "Not just as a catcher, but as a leader."
Posey's own presence on the diamond isn't too shabby.
His combination of power and pure athleticism had Major League teams salivating and phone lines buzzing long before Posey made the transition to catcher.
"I've been scouting Buster sine he was a junior in high school," Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison said, "and [Vanderbilt infielder] Pedro Alvarez and [standouts] like that."
The Rays have the top pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft, and although Harrison is mum on giving any official word, Posey's name constantly circumvents through the Draft conversation. It's been rumored that Posey is one of three finalists for Tampa Bay, who will unveil their selection on June 5 in Orlando, Fla.
If passed over by the Rays, Posey is almost a lock to go in one of the next three picks, held by the Pirates, Royals and Orioles.
Although Posey doesn't deny that the looming Draft is "in the back of his mind," Martin is more frank in assessing his star player's future.
"They just don't come any better," he said. "He's [even] a better person then he is a player. I've seen him for three years and he's never changed. He's a guy that you build a franchise around."
Regardless of which franchise that is, the veteran coach is confident his young catcher will make the Major League transition with the same hard-nosed intent that has anchored a dazzling season for No. 4 Florida State.
"I've never worked in the front office but I know what Jason Varitek has done for the Red Sox," Martin said. "I just know what [Posey] brings to the table. This young man is special."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.