30 May 2008

Draft Preview -- Finding 1:4 (Buster Posey)

Introducing Buster Posey

The third draftee examined in our preview – Buster Posey – has had a busy ten days. In addition to concluding play in the ACC Tournament and preparing for today’s start to the Tallahassee Regional, Posey has begun to stock his 2008 trophy case. Last week brought First Team All-ACC and ACC Player of the Year honors. Yesterday, Posey was named a Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I First Team All-American as well as the National Player of the Year. Further, earlier this week Posey was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-American Baseball Team while also being named Academic All-American of the Year (finance major, 3.8+ GPA). It’s possible Posey will have to make still more room in his trophy case, as he is a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (USA Baseball), the Johnny Bench Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. Let’s take a closer look at the player behind all of these accolades and determine whether he’s a fit for Baltimore at 1:4.

The Numbers

Statistic (National Rank)
Games/Games Started – 58/57
At Bats – 214
Hits – 100 (3)
Doubles – 20 (138)
Triples – 4 (144)
Homeruns – 19 (23)
Batting Average – .467 (1)
On-Base Percentage – .567 (1)
Slugging – .864 (1)
Total Bases – 185 (3)
Walks – 46 (9)
Strikeouts – 20 (160th toughest to strikeout)

The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Posey was this year’s batting, on-base and slugging leader, while ranking in the top 10 in bases-on-balls, hits, runs and total bases and the top 25 in homeruns. Among ACC players, he leads in seven categories while ranking in the top 10 in four others.

While most agree Posey will hit for average, there are varying views as to his potential power development. Despite his collegiate power numbers holding in the neighborhood of G. Beckham or Smoak, even his strongest supporters concede he will likely max out at 20 HR a year at the ML-level (Dick Howser Stadium, his home field at FSU, is a notorious hitters park). Regardless of whether Posey ends up a 16-20 HR bat or a 8-12 HR bat, his offensive game is well-rounded, advanced and should certainly play in pro ball.

The Frame

Posey measures in at 6’2” and 200 pounds. He is a solid size for a catcher and has essentially filled out his frame, which should project well as a #2 hitter with a floor of gap-to-gap power. He has a solid build and should hold up well behind he plate, especially since he did not switch to catcher until late in his baseball career at FSU. Posey is athletic enough to play any position at the collegiate level, but would be just an adequate IF at the ML-level. In a publicity stunt earlier this season, FSU played Posey at every position over the course of a 9-inning game.

Interview With Fox Sports Prior to the Miami Series ('Tek Behind the Plate, Jeter with the Bat Comparison)

Scouting: March 23, 2008 at Virginia Tech (Film)

Load – Posey has a very sound load. He maintains a solid 60/40 weight distribution and his hands are locked close to the shoulder, creating good power potential (you may notice some consistencies among the top collegiate bats?). His elbow is angled slightly below his shoulder line, bringing his bat closer to parallel with his body. This will quicken his bat’s path to the ball provided he is able to keep his hands tight to his body and to drive the bat knob directly at the ball as his swing progresses. Prior to his load, Posey has a bat waggle that I have not seen interfere with the consistency of his hand placement.

Stride – Posey has very still hands through is stride and does a good job of keeping them with his torso -- better than either of Smoak or G. Beckham. His stride is controlled and sets him up well as he begins his weight transfer. The waggle is completely gone by the time his stride has started, and as he gets ready to start the swing, his hips remain closed.

Swing – Posey has the shortest swing out of the three draftees we've examined thus far. He is incredibly direct to the ball, with his hands in great position to strike at any portion of the strike zone. One possible concern is whether or not his compact stroke will limit his HR power as a pro. There is little doubt he'll continue to hit the ball with force, but may not have enough raw size for the short swing to naturally translate to homeruns. This is a minor concern, with the down-side being gap-to-gap doubles power. He also comes in a little flat at times, which is fine for centering on the ball, but again could be the difference between a line drive double in the gap and elevating the ball enough to get it out of the park (a lot of times the difference between a double and a homerun is simply a question of elevation, as it takes about the same amount of force to get it by the outfielders in the gap as it does to get it over the fence). Posey is clean from hips to arm to knob to barrel.

Contact – Posey squares up well on the ball, his compact swing and bat speed permitting him to wait until the ball is a little deeper before beginning his swing. This leads to more consistent hard contact and more time for pitch recognition. He is balanced at contact and does a good job of keeping his swing momentum running to and through the ball, with little if any energy/momentum escaping (this would usually come if the batter starts to fall-off or pull his hips out).

Follow-Through – In the Virginia Tech game, Posey bounced back and forth between two follow-throughs. Depending on the at bat, he may use a free one-handed release (on balls out over the plate) and a tighter two-handed release (from the middle in). The two-handed release is a little cleaner, and more under control. It could be he was a little over-extended on the ABs in which he went to a one-handed release -- in any event, he was not falling-off at all.

Swing Grade – A- – Posey is very sound and compact in his swing. He is quick to the ball and his ability to square up throughout the strikezone allows him to spray linedrives to all fields.

Posey is an elite-level defensive talent at arguably the most valuable defensive position. He possesses plus-arm strengh with above-average accuracy (throwing out 41.5% of would-be base stealers and picking off 6 runners). He is a plus-fielder with strong receiving skills to go along with incredible poise and strong leadership. He is the total package.

Fielding Grade – A

Is Posey Worthy of 1:4?

Almost any argument against drafting Posey begins and ends with the words “Matt Wieters”. This is exactly the wrong reason to avoid the Florida State catcher. Disregarding Wieters’s size and the potential future problems with him staying behind the plate, Baltimore is not in a position to pass on talent – Buster has a lot of it. He does not possess the middle-of-the-order bat you would get with Justin Smoak, but he has the potential to be among the best #2 hitters in the game and his defense and make-up are incredible pieces of a complete package. The chances are Posey will be off the board by the time Baltimore picks. If not, he should be seriously considered at 1:4. For the purposes of our draft board, he grades a hair above Smoak going into this weekend. However, they are close enough that either would be a valid selection.

Prospect Grade – A-
Suggested Draft Slot – 1 to 5
1:4 Recommendation – Strongly Consider Drafting

Current Draft Board
1. Buster Posey (c) Florida State University
2. Justin Smoak (1b) University of South Carolina
3. Gordon Beckham (ss) University of Georgia

Draft Preview Schedule
5/31am Pedro Alvarez (3b) Vanderbilt University
5/31pm Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin High School (Georgia)
6/1am Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6/1pm Aaron Crow (SP) University of Missouri
6/2 Potential Targets for Rounds 2-3
6/3 Potential Targets for Rounds 4-5
6/4 Mail Bag and Final War-Room Review
6/5 Camden Depot Shadow Draft and Live Draft Coverage

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