Buster Posey and Expectations

Buster Posey is on his on his way to the bay. It seems like it has been a long time coming, but fantasy owners will finally be able to put Posey into their starting lineup. Expectations are extremely high for this gifted hitter. Will he live up to the hype?

Posey was hitting .346/.441/.525 with five home runs at triple-A Fresno. Using minorleaguesplits.com’s Major League Equivalent calculator, that line translates to .294/.369/.424 at the Major League level. Not too shabby.

There is little doubt that Posey is going to hit for AVG at the big league level. His swing is very contact oriented and his plate discipline is top-notch (28:30 BB:K at triple-A). This combination of skills should allow for a smooth transition against big league pitching, as long as he gets regular at-bats. The power game, however, is not a big asset. His five home runs this season have come in a good league for hitters (as far as hitter friendly ballparks go). Last season Posey hit 18 home runs in 422 at-bats, with 11 of the 18 coming at homer friendly Fresno. As a point of reference, John Bowker hit 21 home runs in 366 at-bats last season while at Fresno and 13 of the 21 came at home. Those power numbers just do not translate to AT&T Park.
A good comp, as far as counting stats go, would be a good season from A.J. Pierzynski (his 2006 and 2008 seasons). as far as OBP goes, I’m thinking Victor Martinez or slightly better.
For this season, we have a catcher that could hit .290-plus but with limited power. It is unlikely that Posey will hit in a position to drive in runs, so RBI opportunities should be limited as well.
The next question is playing time. The Giants have Bengie Molina catching five or so times per week. For a while now, Posey had been playing some first base at Fresno and there has been speculation that the Giants would consider moving Aubrey Huff to left field. No matter where he plays, first base or at catcher, Posey is not likely to be a full time player this season. More likely, he’ll get five or so starts per week, which isn’t far from the norm for a catcher anyway.
Fantasy owners looking for a saviour are likely to be let down just a bit. Posey is a very nice upgrade in deep leagues and two-catcher formats, but we need to remember that he’s a rookie who has limited power potential and will be learning a whole new pitching staff, which will take some focus away from his hitting.
The bottom line is that Posey will be a much more valuable real life player than fantasy player, now and in the future. It’s not likely that he will turn into a top three fantasy catcher. Still, at a thin fantasy position, Posey should consistently rank in the top ten with a chance to push top five status in his prime.
Rest of season projection with 320 at-bats:
.290/.374/.422, 6 HR, 48 RBI, 39 R, 0 SB