The first of a six-part series that previews the upcoming season for a team we haven’t heard much from in over three months. Who are these guys?
If the Giants are going to win in this sprint of a season, it likely would be because their strongest unit played like it.
The Buster Posey resume does not need to be listed, but it’s unmatched in today’s game. The power has been sapped from his bat the last two seasons, and whether that was more a result of hip surgery or his wear and tear and age (now 33) will be clarified to some extent this year.
In spring training 1.0, Posey’s swing looked more confident, having tweaked it under the new Giants hitting coaches. There is significant hope that one of the best defensive catchers in the game can rebound from two seasons in which he slugged just 12 total home runs. In camp, he was off to a nice Cactus League start, slashing .455/.478/.727 in 10 games. And yet, he was overshadowed by the catcher viewed as his heir.
Before a surprisingly early demotion to minor league camp, Joey Bart did some of everything to prove he belongs in the majors. The Giants praised his improving pitch receiving, Bart getting a chance to work with high-level arms. And he sent balls to the skies, going 7-for-16 with a pair of home runs, a double and three walks.
He was sent down to ensure he received regular at-bats, which now only can be done if he is on the 60-man roster/taxi squad, which he will be. Bart can begin again proving his time is now, wherever it may come: He would be an interesting DH option and may take some reps at first base, as well as spelling Posey.
After Stephen Vogt left, the backup spot was earmarked by Aramis Garcia, whose February hip surgery appeared to knock out his chances to play this season. Yet, he’s on track to return in mid-August, Gabe Kapler confirmed in a text Wednesday, that puts the 27-year-old back on the radar. While there are only 60 games this year, he could miss just three weeks if things go well.
If the Giants are rushing him back, though, it would not bode well for Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly. The duo was brought in to compete to be Posey’s backup in wake of Garcia’s injury, and neither separated himself in camp 1.0. Heineman, a 29-year-old switch-hitter who finally made his major league debut last year, is regarded as the better defensive catcher and slashed .292/.370/.458 in nine Cactus League games. The 30-year-old Brantly, who has the advantage of being a lefty hitter to complement the righty Posey, played a single game with Kapler’s Phillies last year, his first at-bat since 2017 in a career in which he’s more driven than ridden the shuttle between the minors and majors. He slashed .250/.286/.300 in his limited spring action.
Both Heineman, an off-the-field magician, and Brantly, a ball of energy who’s a show on his own, check off the intangibles so many teams look for in backup catchers.
It is possible the two will have a wild-card challenger in Patrick Bailey, the first-round pick out of NC State, a 21-year-old who is praised for his defensive work, rapport with pitchers and a bat that has some pop. The Giants do not want him to lose an entire year of action, even if it means he could find his way onto the taxi squad and not actually play in a game. The Giants will need gloves — just catching bullpen sessions will be needed, making depth at the position mandatory.
Other names to know:
Ricardo Genoves: The 21-year-old looks the part, a 6-foot-2, filled-out righty with a powerful swing. He has not played above Class-A Augusta, though.
Chadwick Tromp: The 25-year-old has not yet broken through to the majors, climbing to Triple-A with the Reds last year before signing with the Giants this offseason. His plate discipline is well-regarded, but he’s viewed as a notch below Heineman and Brantly.
Tomorrow: The corner infielders, first basemen and third basemen.