Posey Keeps Delivering For Giants

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CHICAGO—For all the debate over whether Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown or Mike Trout's all-around brilliance constituted the better season, there's no doubt about baseball's most valuable player.

It's Buster Posey.

On May 28, 2010, the Giants stood at 25-22 and in third place in the National League West. After promoting Posey from Triple-A the next day, San Francisco went 67-48, clinched the division title on the final day of the season and rolled to its first World Series championship since 1954.

With Posey again carrying their lineup, the Giants won 27 of their first 48 games in 2011. But in the 12th inning of that 48th contest, Scott Cousins broke Posey's left leg in a collision at the plate, ending his season. San Francisco went 59-55 afterward, going from 2 ½ games up to eight back in the NL West.

Healthy again in 2012, Posey prospered—as did the Giants. He hit .336/.408/.549, becoming the fourth catcher in modern history to win a batting title and posting the third-highest OPS relative to league and ballpark ever for a backstop. San Francisco won 94 regular season games and its second World Series in three years.

Just one player was a regular in both the Giants' 2010 and 2012 World Series lineups: Posey. Now that's valuable. He's Joe Mauer with power and a pair of World Series rings.

Athletic, do-everything catchers may be the rarest commodity in baseball, which is why Mauer went No. 1 overall in the 2001 draft. So how did Posey last five picks in 2008?

Questions About Bat, Price Tag

Posey originally was drafted as a pitcher coming out of Lee County High (Leesburg, Ga.). The top starter on a 2004 U.S. junior national team pitching staff that included five other future big leaguers, he worked at 92-94 mph and commanded four pitches at his best. He was a third-round talent but his unwavering commitment to Florida State dropped him to the sixth-to-last pick in 2005, 1,496th overall to the Angels.

Posey became a full-time hitter with the Seminoles, playing shortstop as a freshman before making a smooth transition to catcher as a sophomore. His stock continued to rise as a junior, when he led NCAA Division I in hitting (.463), on-base percentage (.566) and slugging (.879).

Nevertheless, there were questions about how much impact Posey's bat would provide. He hit just seven homers in his first two seasons at Florida State, which plays in a notorious hitter's park, and some teams wondered if his junior numbers were legitimate. Even Sean O'Connor, the area scout who signed him, admits Posey has developed more power than he expected.

"I thought he would hit and hit for average," says O'Connor, now the pitching coach at Rollins (Fla.). "I never doubted that he could get comfortable behind the plate and be a big league catcher. But I thought catching might wear him down and his power would maybe suffer, maybe limiting him to 15 homers."

The night before the draft, word came that Posey's asking price was $12 million, further clouding his status.

A Steal At No. 5

San Francisco targeted Posey early on in the 2008 draft process. Scouting director John Barr loved his makeup as much as his talent. So did senior scouting adviser Ed Creech, who knew Posey well as a fellow southwest Georgia native.

For the Giants to get Posey, four teams had to pass on him. The Rays, who owned the top selection, came closest to breaking their heart.

Tampa Bay's staff was split between Posey and Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, with some mild support for polished San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz. The Rays had backloaded deals for previous top overall picks Delmon Young (2003) and David Price (2007), so perhaps Posey's price tag was a factor. In any case, they chose Beckham and signed him for $6.15 million spread over five years.

At No. 2, the Pirates took Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. The Royals explored Posey but went with Florida prep first baseman Eric Hosmer at No. 3. After selecting Matt Wieters the previous June, the Orioles weren't in the market for another catcher and opted for Matusz at No. 4.

Beckham hasn't developed into a five-tool shortstop as projected. Alvarez and Hosmer were supposed to have more potent bats than Posey, but that hasn't been the case so far. Matusz reached the majors quickly, as expected, only to get hammered as a starter.

Since signing for $6.2 million, Posey has eclipsed the four players selected ahead of him—and everyone else in the 2008 draft.

"You never assume anything in this business," Barr says. "It wasn't until the day of the draft and the Orioles made their pick that we knew we were getting Buster Posey. At times we thought Buster would go 1-1 or maybe the Royals would take him. But we kept on staying positive that Buster would get to us. He was our guy."

He remains so to this day. And, the Giants hope, for many more.