AFL Notebook: Catching Roundup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Giants catcher Buster Posey might have been the best position prospect in the Arizona Fall League.

Posey, 22, hit .325/.416/.531 in 115 games between high Class A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno during the regular season. Yet he had a rather pedestrian showing for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. A few talent evaluators around the league said Posey looked tired, though he still showed good bat speed and the other solid all-around tools that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Florida State.

"You see the catching ability, obviously the receiving, the blocking, the nice arm, you see the arm strength and the quickness in his release," said Scottsdale manager Jeff Banister, the Pirates minor league field coordinator. "The bat plays—he’s hit some balls very well here. I think being tired and worn out that he’s trying to press a little bit and trying to generate a little too much with the bat, but you do see all the skill set of a major league catcher, of a guy that potentially could be that everyday catcher that San Francisco is looking for."

It was Posey’s younger teammate, Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario, who put up the better numbers for Scottsdale. Rosario, 20, played just 58 games this year for high Class A Modesto before a left wrist injury ended his season at the end of July. Rosario hit .304/.344/.571 in 61 trips to the plate, though he showed some vulnerability against breaking balls.

"You see the arm strength, you see the solid body," Banister said. "He’s shown you the power out here. Obviously he’s got a ways to go with receiving. The overall game-calling and game awareness has gotten better since he started out here. He’s an A-ball kid who’s trying to find his way against some older, experienced players, but if I’m the Rockies, I’m excited about him. He shows you the skill set to be an everyday catcher."

• We already hit on the impression that Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has made on some scouts in the AFL, but that was before talking to Kevin Bradshaw, his manager with the Peoria Javelinas, Bradshaw, the Tigers infield coordinator, managed Lucroy in 2007 in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Lucroy was the Brewers’ third-round pick that summer and ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

"The progress I’ve seen him make in two years behind the plate throwing is unbelievable," Bradshaw said. "Everybody I think knows he can hit. He can hit for power and he can hit for average because he uses right-center field real well. But his defensive skills have really improved."

Lucroy, 23, recorded excellent pop times in the low 1.8s in the AFL, where he threw out eight of the 16 runners who tried to steal against him.

"I think the biggest thing is his confidence," Bradshaw said. "He didn’t have any confidence in Hawaii at all throwing the baseball, and now he does. He’s done a few things footwork-wise that I think maybe has created that confidence. But I know the Brewers are really harping on us for him, when he’s not catching, to keep a chart and study these hitters. He’s been doing it and it carries over because the next time he catches against them, it’s usually a victory for us or a game that’s a 3-2 ballgame in a league that’s full of good hitters. He’s doing an outstanding job."

• Red Sox catcher Luis Exposito provides a big target behind the plate for his pitchers, and the 22-year-old looks even bigger than his listed height and weight of 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He threw out just three of 21 basestealers in the AFL, but he generally receives solid marks for his defensive tools. Though he doesn’t swing and miss excessively, scouts have some concerns about the length of his swing, and the scouting consensus is that he’s likely a backup at the big league level, with the potential to work himself into a starting role.

"Exposito is extremely physical, extremely strong and he has a great arm" said Mesa manager Brandon Hyde, who managed the Marlins’ Double- A Jacksonville affiliate this summer. "He could be a power bat that could be a good catch-and-throw guy behind the plate."

Exposito split time behind the plate for Mesa with the Angels’ Hank Conger, a 21-year-old who hit .295/.369/.424 in 123 games during the regular season with Double-A Arkansas. A hodgepodge of shoulder, back, hamstring and hand injuries have limited Conger’s time behind the plate in pro ball, but it’s Conger’s defense that struck Hyde the most. 

"I was really impressed with Hank’s leadership skills and what he’s been doing behind the plate," Hyde said. "He receives well, he blocks fantastic and he really takes control of the game. He’s a quarterback there and a leader on the field. I’ve been really impressed with his game management skills."