2012 Projection: Buster Posey

The season is winding down and for every team that is fighting for a top-three finish, there’s at least five more that are already looking toward 2012. It may seem a bit early to get started on 2012 projections, but certain players have seen their season come to an end already via injury. My first 2012 projection is one of those injured players, but also someone who could be a big keeper name as we look toward next season.

Buster Posey, C, SF – Age: 25 in 2012
2012 Projection: .299/.381/.480, .861 OPS, 19 HR, 78 R, 91 RBI, 2 SB

There is little doubt in my mind that a healthy Buster Posey can be a top-five fantasy catcher going forward. I ranked him third heading into this season at an $18 auction value. Posey got of to a slow start in April, hitting .261/.327/.420, but he did crank out all four of his home runs that month. He improved his triple slash numbers in May, but that’s when a nasty collision at the plate cost him the rest of his season.

We can’t base too much of the 2012 projection out of Posey’s shortened 2011 season; he only played in 45 games and recieved 185 plate appearances. We can, however, look toward certain numbers that held true to his 2010 season.

There were more than a few debates over Posey’s ultimate power ceiling. He had been seen by many prospect mavens as a catcher capable of 15-20 homers per season. However, upon his call-up to the Giants last season, he went wild, hitting 18 home runs in only 406 at-bats. It wasn’t as if his HR/FB rate was incredibly high either (15.4 percent), but he did hit ground balls at a elevated rate (48.6 percent). With a fly-ball rate under 35 percent, it seemed a bit odd that Posey, whom many thought would max out at around 20 homers, could hit 18 in such limited at-bats. In his small sample size from this season, Posey continued to hit the ball on the ground frequently (52.6 percent). While that rate certainly would have changed with a full season’s worth of at-bats, it is at least somewhat consistent with what he had done in 2010 as well as the minor leagues.

25-plus home run catchers are rare in this day and age. Only Mike Napoli and Brian McCann seem to have a shot to reach that plateau this season — maybe Carlos Santana if he has a big finish. Only Napoli, Joe Mauer and Victor Martinez have hit 25 or more home runs at the position since 2005.

The bottom line is that Posey is and will be one hell of a fantasy threat at catcher. His home run numbers may fluctuate around 17-20 per year, but his biggest asset is his ability to hit for AVG and get on base. He’ll limit his strikeouts, draw a good amount of walks, make solid contact, limit his chase rate and hit a good amount of line drives and hard ground balls. Mix all of that together with a sweet swing and you’ve got a recipe for fantasy gold, especially if his stock falls due to the knee injury.