The Giants have Buster Posey under contract for another year, and with Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey in the system, they feel they'll be set behind the plate through the end of the decade, at least. There might not be an organization in all of baseball with more catching depth if you account for all levels.
And yet, nine days from the opener, the Giants do not have a starting catcher.
What was once a heated two-man duel to be the backup has turned into a three-man competition for two jobs. The organization that has for so long prided itself on catching stability may not even have a set starter this year, with Rob Brantly, Tyler Heineman and late-riser Chadwick Tromp battling for two jobs. In the wake of Posey's decision, manager Gabe Kapler has tried to stay positive.
"I think it's clear right now that we have three catchers who are putting their best foot forward and giving themselves the best opportunity to be evaluated," Kapler said. "All three of those guys have different skill sets that they bring to the table."
But, Kapler added, the Giants may not have the same two catchers "a month down the road."
Bart looms as one potential option, but for now, Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have made it clear they need to see further development. Bart is not a candidate to stand on the line at Dodger Stadium next Thursday, but these three are. Here are the scouting reports Kapler gave on the non-roster invitees vying to replace Posey:
The 29-year-old played in five games last season with the Marlins and signed as a minor league free agent. In that limited cameo, he had a homer off Zach Wheeler and double off Jacob deGrom.
"Heineman, we identified as obviously a switch-hitting catcher -- those guys are always valuable -- who could do damage against velocity," Kapler said. "You always want to have a hitter on your roster or several hitters on your roster who can catch up with high-velocity fastballs because they're more prevalent around the game. That's one of Tyler's strengths. Obviously the flexibility of having a switch-hitter is important. He's also got exceptional recall. He's a good game-planner and we're really, really confident that he's going to be able to implement our pitching staff's game plans and have good recall around those, which is really important. If a pitcher is working on a specific pitch or has a specific way we want that pitcher to attack an opposing hitter, we want Tyler to be able to lead that charge and get that pitcher back on track, and he's got that sort of skill set."
The most experienced of the bunch by far, Brantly, a left-handed hitter, got 323 at-bats for the Marlins in his first two seasons and resurfaced with the White Sox in 2015 and 2017. Brantly has spent most of his career in Triple-A. Kapler got to know him last year in Philadelphia, although Brantly got just one big-league at-bat.
"Brantly I have a lot of familiarity with from my time in Philadelphia. He's a really good at-bat against right-handed pitching, in particular, he sees pitches and really understands the strike zone well," Kapler said. He understands the strike zone well on the offensive side but also on the defensive side. He's got high energy and he's upbeat and is as positive as any person you'll be around. He's really made the clubhouse environment better."
The newcomer to the race, Tromp was a late addition to Summer Camp but is making a late charge. He was coming off an injury last year and played just 26 games in Triple-A for the Reds, but the Giants liked what they saw. Tromp hit two homers in a camp game on Sunday, opening some eyes.
"I think it's been clear over the last couple of days that he has the ability to drive the ball," Kapler said. "That's evident. I think we're all seeing that. I think the bat speed is real, I think that's something we need to be paying close attention to. It's notable that we feel like he's going to be good against left-handed pitching. In the past, he's had pretty even or even reverse splits, but I don't think we have enough of a feel for what he will do with major league pitching. We'll continue to evaluate.
He's a very good leader behind the plate and is already developing a comfortable but strong rapport with the pitchers. I think pitchers are comfortable with him, but I also think they respect him. He has strong opinions and is vocal about those opinions and he has done a nice job of leading with his words and his body language."