Giants

Giants plan to use Buster Posey as catcher, not first baseman, in 2020

Giants plan to use Buster Posey as catcher, not first baseman, in 2020

Buster Posey turns 33 years old in two weeks, yet he still is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. The question is, however, how many games behind the dish can he last?

Posey caught just 101 games last season as Stephen Vogt was a very viable backup option. He caught only 88 games in 2018 and 99 in 2017. Many believe that as Posey ages, he's headed for a future at first base, especially with his heir apparent, Joey Bart, nearly ready for the big leagues. 

That doesn't seem to be the case right now, though. 

Posey only started four games as a first baseman last season, and The Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported Wednesday that Posey has been informed not to bother taking groundballs at first base. For now, the Giants don't plan to give him starts there.

“We know that every single day, he’s going to be our best option behind the plate,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said to Baggarly. “So we will work collaboratively to find the right workload for the 2020 season. But it will be our intention to have him in the lineup as much as possible.”

Posey last caught at least 120 games behind the dish in 2016, which was the last season he won a Gold Glove. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi isn't putting a firm number on how many games he expects Posey to catch, but can see him in the squat for at least 120 games. 

“We’ll just have to see once he gets into the rigors of the regular season. But hearing that number (120), I don’t think that’s out of the range of how this might play out," Zaidi said. "He’s so valuable at the catching position because of his defense and the leadership and the game-calling he provides back there.

"The best thing for us as a team is for him to catch as many games as he can physically manage.”

This certainly speaks highly of Giants first baseman Brandon Belt as well. The veteran causes a whole lot of reactions from fans, but Kapler has been a fan since Day 1. 

Ever since Kapler was named as the Giants' new manager, he has spoken highly of Belt

"I just think we value his approach at the plate so much and I think it's going to play very well for him in spring training but ultimately in the season," Kapler said of Belt late last month.

[RELATED: #ForeverGiant: Posey doesn't want to play for another team]

Kapler and Zaidi alike expect Bart to make his big league debut at some point for the Giants this season. Bart, who only has played catcher since his college career at Georgia Tech, will begin learning first base. 

For now, the Giants are focused on what makes them the best team possible right now, and that's having Posey catching as much as he can.

Giants scrimmage notes: Johnny Cueto named Opening Day starter again

Giants scrimmage notes: Johnny Cueto named Opening Day starter again

The last thing Giants manager Gabe Kapler did before the coronavirus shut down the sport was name Johnny Cueto his Opening Day starter. Four months later, that remains the case. 

After Cueto got past 60 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday, Kapler said he had a long conversation with the right-hander and Cueto will start against the Dodgers next Thursday in a nationally-televised game. 

Cueto, of course, had already made this official:

That was some of the news of the day. Here's more from the five-inning game at Oracle Park between Team Black and Team Orange, along with some updates from Kapler: 

--- The highlight of the game was Alex Dickerson's bomb to right off Shaun Anderson:

--- Tyler Heineman put a bunt down and also stole third for the second time in a week. He continues to make an impression in the battle for the starting catcher job, and Kapler has spent a fair amount of time after workouts talking about the little things Heineman does well. 

--- Triples Alley is six feet shorter, but it's still an easy triple for Steven Duggar. He lined one out there with two runners on and cruised into third standing up even though Joe McCarthy got to the ball pretty quickly. Two runs scored. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

--- Joey Bart had a hard single to right in his first at-bat, but his most impressive feat came two pitches earlier. On the first pitch he saw from hard-throwing righty Rico Garcia, Bart smacked a liner to right that bounced off the bricks where the Alaska Airlines suite is located in foul territory down the line. He was about 10 feet away from an opposite-field double off the archway, which is a pretty solid feat for a right-hander at Oracle Park. 

Bart has as strong an opposite-field approach as you'll see from a young hitter, and he's not afraid of the ballpark, which generally favors right-handers who pull the ball. When he's up here, you're going to see a few of those rare right-handed-homers into the arcade. 

That's the future. Here's the present, and his single:

--- The news is all good on the health front. Brandon Belt was out of his walking boot and took some swings. Tony Watson threw a second live BP session and Kapler said he's "progressing towards being ready for us" next week against the Dodgers. Jarlin Garcia, who has been on the IL for undisclosed reasons, should be back in camp tomorrow. Garcia was having a huge spring and would be a key lefty in the bullpen if ready. There is nothing new on Billy Hamilton, though. 

--- The Giants added outfielder Jose Siri to their player pool. The 24-year-old is a former Reds prospect the Giants picked up earlier this year, in part because hitting coach Donnie Ecker -- formerly with the Reds -- liked his potential. "He was a guy with a high ceiling for the Reds and a prospect there with tools and athleticism and power," Kapler said. 

[RELATED: As Puig signs with Braves, Giants stay focused on next wave]

--- Every day there's a new thing you notice about a park with no fans. Today the media could clearly make out the conversations on the infield, which were all happening in Spanish for Team Orange. Wilmer Flores (Venezuela), Donovan Solano (Colombia) and Mauricio Dubon (Honduras) were at first, second and third, with Cueto (Dominican Republic) pitching to Chad Tromp (Aruba). Evan Longoria was at third, but seemed to be following along. It was pretty cool to watch.

Kapler mentioned earlier this week that one advantage Tromp has over the other catchers is his ability to more easily communicate with the team's Spanish-speaking pitchers. Cueto was followed on the mound by Wandy Peralta, who is also from the Dominican Republic. 

Giants forgoing Yasiel Puig sweepstakes has team focusing on next wave

Giants forgoing Yasiel Puig sweepstakes has team focusing on next wave

A few minutes after word leaked that Yasiel Puig will sign with the Braves, a hitting group took the field at Oracle Park that showed exactly why he wasn't necessary in San Francisco this year. 

Mike Yastrzemski took his swings with Darin Ruf, who has been a camp revelation and is being counted on to fill the role of right-handed masher in the lineup this season. Yastrzemski, though, is the one who really is indicative of why the Giants are keeping it in-house as the season approaches. 

The Giants did something simple with Yastrzemski last year. They gave him a chance. 

Yastrzemski, 107 games and 21 homers later, might now be Farhan Zaidi's best big leaguer, and the hope with the front office is that the 2019 discovery is just the start. 

Yastrzemski is likely to be an everyday player for Gabe Kapler, and the Giants are hopeful that Jaylin Davis, 26, joins him. Mauricio Dubon, 25, looks headed for a meaty role in the outfield, too, and 27-year-old Austin Slater is going to get another look. The staff also likes Joe McCarthy, a 26-year-old who was acquired at the deadline last year and boasts a .376 OBP in the minors. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Much of the attention over the last two weeks has been on the younger kids, the Lucianos, Toribios and Canarios of the organization. But the Giants have a slightly older class of hitters, primarily outfielders, who are looking to prove they're part of the future, too, and they don't have a Triple-A season to get them ready. Every at-bat given to a free-agent outfielder is one taken away from Davis or Slater or maybe Dubon. 

Of course, the Giants aren't just here to develop players. They hope to compete this season, and Puig -- for all the headaches he brings -- is a proven right fielder. He is no longer, however, a proven star. Puig's OPS+ last year was a league-average 100 and he has just one three-WAR season since 2014. He was not going to be a game-changer for the Giants, and realistically, there's nobody out there who can change their fate too much now that Buster Posey has opted out. 

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This season is what it is, but the Giants do honestly look headed for a much brighter future. The teenagers are coming fast, and Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop should arrive in the outfield in the next year or two. The hope is that when they do, Yastrzemski has company in the lineup, that a Davis or Dubon or Slater has locked down a permanent role. 

As the Giants proved last year, the only way to find those guys is to give them a shot, give them some "runway" to succeed or fail, as Zaidi has said many times in his two years here. That wasn't going to happen with another veteran joining the group nine days before the opener.