Searching for Buster Posey's Replacement

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 15: Catcher Hector Sanchez #29 of the San Francisco Giants and pitcher Santiago Casilla #46 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate their victory over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 15, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Santiago Casilla earned the save as the Giants defeated the Rockies 8-5. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Everyone knows that Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered knee and ankle injuries resulting from a horrific home plate collision last May. We don't need to show video or rehash what happened. There are people who say he could have done a better job of protecting himself from such a collision. That does not help Posey rehab any quicker, or help the Giants decide what to do with Posey this season.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has already indicated 1) he doesn't want Posey blocking the plate this season....at all, and 2) he may let Posey play some first base this season to keep his bat in the lineup. I heard Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans interviewed on SiriusXM's Inside Pitch show this evening that Posey's rehab is going well and he is already swinging the bat. He is also catching bullpen sessions, but there is a question as to whether he will participate in the Giants spring training opener on Saturday. They are smart for taking it slow with their best hitter this spring.

We won't know how soon Posey can catch back to back games until sometime during spring training. If there is any question as to how quick he can recover from one day to the next, the Giants may start Posey at first base more often than we know at this point.

That begs the question, how soon before Posey moves off catcher, if at all? If he does, who is the Giants catcher of the future?

More after the jump:

The Giants have 3 catching prospects in Tommy Joseph, Hector Sanchez and Andrew Susac. I will address them one by one.

Tommy Joseph

Year Age Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 18 SALL A 117 436 46 103 22 1 16 68 26 116 .236 .290 .401 .691 175
2011 19 CALL A+ 127 514 80 139 33 2 22 95 29 102 .270 .317 .471 .787 242
2 Seasons 244 950 126 242 55 3 38 163 55 218 .255 .304 .439 .743 417
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2012.

Joseph has power as he has hit 38 HRs in his two minor league seasons, but he strikes out a bit too much and could stand to improve his eye at the plate, as he doesn't walk much at all. Last season in the Cal League, Joseph his .270 with 57 extra base hits, but I wonder how much of that was due to the hitting environment. Here is what John had to say about him in The 2012 Baseball Prospect Book:

He has 20-homer power, but with his current over-aggressive approach his batting average and OBP would be weak. Perhaps he could turn out like J.P Arencibia. Joseph has made a lot of progress on defense, throwing out 37% of runners last year while improving his blocking and receiving skills. He can also play first base, but it makes sense to me for the Giants to develop him as a catcher, given the fact that Buster Posey may switch positions. I like Joseph’s potential and if he had gone to college, 2012 would be his draft year. He has time to fix his deficiencies. Grade B-.

Joseph is just 20 years old, but should start the season at AA RIchmond this season. I see the Giants taking it slow with Joseph to see 1) if he can continue to hit for power against more advanced pitching, and 2) if he can improve his plate discipline.

Hector Sanchez

Sanchez flew from High A to AAA to the big leagues last season, so he may be the most ready of the 3 catching prospects in San Francisco.

Year Age Lg Lev G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2007 17 DOSL FRk 44 119 10 34 10 0 4 18 19 15 .286 .401 .471 .872 56
2008 18 DOSL FRk 55 207 40 72 14 3 4 63 36 29 .348 .458 .502 .961 104
2009 19 ARIZ Rk 33 117 13 35 8 1 1 22 16 21 .299 .403 .410 .813 48
2010 20 SALL A 89 310 29 85 20 1 5 31 28 50 .274 .336 .394 .730 122
2011 21 2 Lgs A+-AAA 98 365 46 104 23 1 12 84 24 71 .285 .328 .452 .780 165
2011 21 CALL A+ 52 212 31 64 14 1 11 58 11 49 .302 .338 .533 .871 113
2011 21 PCL AAA 46 153 15 40 9 0 1 26 13 22 .261 .315 .340 .655 52
5 Seasons 319 1118 138 330 75 6 26 218 123 186 .295 .373 .443 .815 495
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2012.

Sanchez is only 21 years of age, and he has been in the Giants organization for years already. He has never hit lower than .285 in his minor league career, and used to be able to take a walk. Well, that is until he made it to Low A. Maybe he started focusing on his defensive abilities and game calling as he made it to Low A, I am not sure, but his OBP dropped from over .400 in the rookie leagues to just .336 in Low A in 2010. The low OBP continued in High A and AAA last season. Here is what John had to say about him in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book:

His best skills are defensive: he’s mobile, has a strong arm, and receives well. He threw out 34% of runners last year (and his whole career). His glove will keep him in/near the majors for a long time. His bat isn’t hopeless by any means: he makes contact and shows gap power, but isn’t expected to be a big home run threat. I think he will be an excellent backup but I doubt he’ll hit quite enough to hold a starting job long-term. Grade C+.

Like John said, Sanchez has an acceptable bat, for a catcher, but he may be just a backup in the big leagues. I can see him getting more big league at bats as Posey's back up this season.

Andrew Susac

Susac was a second round pick in the 2011 MLB First Year Player draft, after he hit .313-.444-.552 in 134 at bats at Oregon State in 2011. He is 21 years old and here is what John had to say about him in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book:

Susac was headed towards a spot in the first round of the 2011 draft, but the Oregon State catcher broke a hamate bone before the draft and dropped down to the second round, 86th overall. He still pulled in a robust $1,100,000 bonus. Susac excites scouts with his raw power and he could be a 20-homer guy, but he has a big leg kick and tends to pull the ball. He should have plenty of pop but might not hit for a great batting average. He’s athletic and has a strong throwing arm, and with more experience he’ll be a fine defender. I like him, but we need to see how he adapts to pro ball before going higher than a Grade B-. That could look too pessimistic a year from now.

John thinks the Susac could make the B- grade look low after the 2012 season, his first in the minor leagues. ESPN's Keith Law ranked Susac as his 5th best prospect in the Giants system, while John had him ranked as his 4th ranked prospect in the Giants system. I will be interested to see how he fares in his first season in the minors, which I imagine will be in either Low A or High A.

Which of these 3 catching prospects will "help" Giants GM Brian Sabean decide if and/or when to move Buster Posey off of catcher? All 3 have questions, and Sanchez will probably just be a backup even if Posey does move off of catcher. So, the question is down to Tommy Joseph or Andrew Susac.

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