Safe and Sound: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez
On the Bubble: Guillermo Quiroz
Not Likely: Jeff Arnold, Andrew Susac, Ben Turner
As the San Francisco Giants head into 2014 spring training, their most stable position without a question is catcher. Buster Posey, the face of the franchise, will once again be the starter, and 24-year-old Hector Sanchez will be his backup.
Posey will be looking to rebound from a subpar second half of 2013 in which he hit .244 with just nine extra-base hits. The soon-to-be 27-year-old was affected by fatigue, but has worked hard to improve his conditioning this offseason and reportedly has gained about 10 pounds.
The biggest key to Posey staying fresh during 2014 may be having a healthy Sanchez for the full year. As Posey was recovering in 2012 from the effects of the collision that ended his 2011 season early, Sanchez broke out and hit .280 while starting 48 games at catcher. This allowed manager Bruce Bochy to comfortably place Posey at first base or give him the day off without having to worry about the offense being affected.
However, last year Sanchez struggled with a shoulder injury for most of the season which affected his hitting and throwing. This set him back and caused multiple disabled list stints and demotions to the minors. As a result, light-hitting veteran Guillermo Quiroz served as the backup catcher, which made Bochy more hesitant to take Posey out of the lineup. This may have caused Posey to overwork himself early, which resulted in him wearing down later in the year.
Though first baseman Brandon Belt’s emergence may make it more difficult to stick Posey at first base regularly this year, the presence of Sanchez should still allow Posey to get rest whenever he needs it. Hopefully his improved conditioning will make it a moot point, but nevertheless having a backup catcher with legitimate offensive ability is a huge plus.
It’s very likely that Posey and Sanchez will be the only catchers on the 25-man roster come Opening Day. With that said, Bochy spoke heavily of Quiroz’s positive clubhouse presence and extensive baseball IQ last year, so it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see the 32-year-old beat the odds once again and earn a big-league bench spot. His presence would allow Bochy to more freely use Sanchez as a pinch hitter and have the flexibility to make double switches without concern. As much as Quiroz’s presence would help, though, the Giants likely would have to go without a sixth infielder to keep him on the roster, so a multitude of circumstances would have to occur for him to make it.
Beyond Quiroz, the Giants have three other non-roster catchers who will be in camp: Andrew Susac, Jeff Arnold, and Ben Turner. Susac, who is entering his third big-league camp, stands to see his first major league action this season after two full years in the Giants’ system. Assistant general manager Bobby Evans anointed him this offseason as the third catcher on the depth chart, though he’ll probably be splitting time at Triple-A Fresno with Quiroz and won’t be a serious candidate for a callup until he has at least a few months of Triple-A experience under his belt.
Arnold, who broke out last season both offensively and behind the plate, will be in his first major league camp as he figures to likely be the starter at Double-A Richmond this year. Top pitching prospect Kyle Crick called Arnold “the best (catcher) in the Minors” last year, so he’ll have some serious expectations to live up to this season.
Turner, who split time between catcher and first base last year at Low-A Augusta, will likely be the starting catcher at High-A San Jose this year. He too will be attending major league camp for the first time as he begins his second professional season.
Overall, the Giants should feel very confident in their first several catching options this year. If something catastrophic should happen, they may begin to feel the offseason loss of longtime organizational catchers Johnny Monell and Jackson Williams, but in all likelihood they’ll be good with the Posey/Sanchez tandem and receive a lot of offensive production from the catching position.