What excites Gabe Kapler most about Buster Posey returning behind plate

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Alex Pavlovic
·4 min read
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What excites Kapler most about Posey returning behind plate originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

When trying to figure out how much production the Giants might get out of Buster Posey next season, you can pretty easily argue both sides. 

Posey turns 34 next spring and put up the worst numbers of his career the last time he was on a baseball field. He has 12 total homers since the end of the 2017 season, so it's fair to wonder how much is left in the tank. 

On the other hand, Posey will be another year removed from major hip surgery and a body that's been beaten up behind the plate for the last decade just got a full summer to rest. As Posey changed diapers, the new hitting coaches -- ones he has complimented in conversations with team officials -- helped coax fellow veterans Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford to some of their best work statistically. Perhaps they can do the same for Posey, who will return to a lineup that doesn't need nearly as much from him as it did in 2019. 

We'll have a much better idea of Posey's abilities at the plate over the first few weeks of the 2021 season, when he will once again take over as the starting catcher, this time for Gabe Kapler. But regardless of what the Giants get offensively, they figure to be a much better team simply by having Posey back behind the plate. An offensive bounce-back would be a nice bonus, but Kapler mostly is counting on Posey to lead a young pitching staff that had ups and downs in 2020 while throwing to Joey Bart, Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp. 

"It's no secret that we had some challenges behind the plate without Buster," Kapler told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. "I don't think you saw it in the physical skill as much as you saw it in the ability to really slow the game down. Trompy, Heineman, Joey -- they're all really talented individuals with upsides and chances to really grow in this game. Buster is on another level as it relates to his experience, big games, big moments, being able to slow it down, being able to use his intuition and call the right pitch in the right moment, and just not get rattled."

Those challenges were plain to see at some points. The catcher's interference calls early in the season were jarring and helped opponents push rallies along, and the game sped up on Bart a few times, with one notable late-game sequence where he dropped several pitches. Bart and Johnny Cueto, the Opening Day starter, never found a rhythm, leading to Tromp becoming his personal catcher. 

There were more subtle signs, too. One of the low points of the season came on the final Friday night, when Sam Coonrod lost his command and looked shaken before allowing a walk-off homer to the San Diego Padres. It was precisely the type of moment where you want a veteran catcher, one who knows exactly when to walk out to the mound and calmly reassure his pitcher. Perhaps Posey's experience could have made a difference during the meltdowns against the A's, too. 

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The Giants had a relatively young staff in 2020 and expect the same next season. Logan Webb and Tyler Beede should make up 40 percent of the rotation by May and prospects like Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck are on the way. The bullpen will again be filled with younger players looking to break through, with the possibility that the Giants accelerate the development of players like Camilo Doval, Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro. Like others, Kapler has spoken very highly of the trio. The Giants could be breaking in a first-time closer in Reyes Moronta. 

Kapler went through part of that list when asked what he expects from Posey's return to the big leagues. When Kapler took the job, Posey was the lone player to attend the press conference, and it appeared the new manager would have plenty of help behind the plate. He'll get it in Year 2, and he's excited about it. 

"Yeah," Kapler said, "Buster's leadership is going to be critical for us in 2021."