One can argue the Giants 2011 season was lost on May 25, when Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins tagged up on a short sacrifice fly to Nate Schierholtz and barreled into Buster Posey. The play spawned a thousand replays, a broken leg, torn ankle ligaments and a season instantly cut short.
From that point forward, a platoon of Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart shared at-bats from the catcher position. (The only exception being 34 plate appearances from 21-year-old Hector Sanchez.)
In 82 games Eli Whiteside had a slash line of .197/.264/.310. Chris Stewart bested him, slighly, hitting .204/.283/.309 in 67 games. In 45 games, Posey had 6 fewer RBI (21) than Whiteside and Stewart had for the rest of the season combined (27).
On that cool Wednesday night in front of 41,037 fans at Pac Bell, the Giants lost their Rookie of the Year, their clean-up hitter and their emerging franchise player in a matter of a mere 90 feet.
With Buster Posey the Giants feel comfortable that they do not need to look elsewhere for catching help. Posey has already started catching bullpen sessions as part of his rehabilitation process and is still considered the Giants number one catcher. All reports suggest that Posey's return to behind the dish is all but certain.
If at any point in the near future Posey is shifted away from the catcher position, the Giants do have another bright spot emerging as a viable alternative. Tommy Joseph hit 22 home runs and 33 doubles for single-A San Jose in 2011. Joseph is just 20 years old. He showed vast improvement over his previous season at Augusta, adding nearly 100 points to his OPS. With the success he showed at San Jose in over 500 at-bats, there's a good chance he'll soon make the jump to double-A Richmond.
Ahead of Joseph, however, is the 21-year-old Sanchez, who posted a strong year between San Jose and triple-A Fresno. The Venezuela native slugged .452 across the two minor league levels, and saw time with the big club in 2011. So far he's also having a solid fall in the Venezuelan League.
Still, the catching spot is Posey's in 2012 -- with either Whiteside or Stewart serving as primary backup. With Posey in the lineup in 2012, the Giants offense gets an automatic upgrade. While some doubt whether a return to the catcher position is wise, the Giants are banking on him to return to his 2010 form. If the Giants threaten to retake the title in 2012, it will be because Posey is anchoring the heart of the lineup.
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