Big League Stew goes through the quad and into the gymnasium to look at some of the hottest players in baseball and their chances of keeping it going.
The Naked Truth: .353/.386/.559, 8 HR, 31 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: How good has Buster Posey been? Good enough for Murray Chass to write a column called "INTEGRITY STRIKES OUT" about how unconscionable it was for the Giants to delay Posey's call-up by two months. With Kung Fu Sandoval slumping, Posey has been by far the Giants' best hitter, as well as the batterymate to the best pitching staff in the game. Heady stuff for a 23-year-old, but it's no fluke.
You're my boy, Blue!: The Giants knew Posey was ready — and Chass got indignant — because he simply destroyed the minor leagues, though Matt Wieters(notes) has proven that simply destroying the minors is no guarantee of immediate success in the majors. Perhaps the most striking element in Posey's minor league numbers, though, is his 98/102 BB/K ratio. It indicates that he possesses both a good command of the strike zone and good bat control. That mark slipped to nine walks against 21 strikeouts in the majors this year, but that's hardly a crippling total; while his 4.9 percent walk rate is less than could be hoped, his 11.4 percent strikeout rate is quite good (league average is 18 percent), as is his 82 percent contact rate (league average is 80 percent) and his 21 percent line-drive rate (league average is 19 percent).
His .361 BABIP is quite high, and it's likely his batting average will decline a good deal before the end of the year. And, because of his low walk rate, his OBP will decline notably as a result. Right now, he's a good hitter "for a catcher"; in order to be a truly elite hitter, he'll need to up his walks, or potentially be subject to the kind of slump Sandoval has been experiencing this year. Still, he's hitting line drives and line-drive home runs — which are indicative of the type of hitter he is. He might be getting lucky a little, but he's also getting good wood a lot.
Think KFC will still be open?: He's bound for a regression to the mean — he's a great hitter, but he's probably not a .350 hitter. But, broadly, yes. Posey should be a fine hitter for a long time.
Which other catchers are streaking?
Carlos Santana(notes), Cleveland Indians .282/.431/.547, 6 HR, 19 RBI
If not for the Casey Blake(notes) trade, which sent Santana from the Dodgers to the Indians, we'd get to watch Buster and Carlos — the two best under-25 catchers in baseball — play against each other often. Despite Posey's batting average being 71 points higher, Santana in many ways is the superior hitter. For example, Santana's OBP is 45 points higher. Also, Santana's BB/K ratio is a preposterous 32/23; Among hitters with 150 PA, that's the third-best BB/K in baseball, behind the powerless Luis Castillo(notes) and John Jaso(notes) — and ahead of Albert Pujols(notes).
Brian McCann(notes), Atlanta Braves .271/.380/.458, 12 HR, 45 RBI
Ho-hum. Brian McCann just made his fifth straight All-Star appearance and won the All-Star MVP, despite being one of the more anonymous members of the team. Until the emergence of Posey and Santana this season, McCann was unquestionably the best-hitting catcher in baseball aside from Joe Mauer(notes). For the most part, he's the same hitter he's always been: 20-homer power with a .280-.300 batting average. Issues related to his LASIK surgery have caused minor slumps the past two years, but he consistently has bounced back to his career levels. As Dave Cameron has written, "McCann is probably the most polished of the young slugging backstops. He doesn't make quite as much contact as he did a few years ago, but the walks are up and the power hasn't gone anywhere... He's the foundation of the Braves roster, and quite a piece to build around."
Geovany Soto(notes), Chicago Cubs .295/.412/.529, 13 HR, 35 RBI
Geovany Soto has had quite a ride the past three years. He emerged triumphantly as a 25-year-old in 2008, hitting 23 homers and winning Rookie of the Year after struggling to break through three separate cups of coffee in 2005, '06 and '07. He slumped horribly in '09 amid injuries to his shoulder and oblique, losing 166 points of OPS as the rest of the Cubs offense collapsed around him. This year, he's back and better than ever, with more home run power and more walks. He might be above his head — the true Soto could be somewhere in between the 2008/2010 peak and the 2009 valley — but he's a legitimately fine hitter.