With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Giants squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?SAN FRANCISCO -- Concern for Buster Posey's well-being probably won't ebb until his playing career ends.Fortunately for Posey and the Giants, he doesn't
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Giants squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?
SAN FRANCISCO -- Concern for Buster Posey's well-being probably won't ebb until his playing career ends.
Fortunately for Posey and the Giants, he doesn't seem destined to disappear for quite some time.
• 30 stars ready to shine bright in 2017
Posey prompted skepticism last year while recording full-season lows in several statistical categories, including home runs (14), batting average (.288), OPS (.796) and OPS+ (112). He homered twice after July 16, accounting partly for his .680 OPS in the season's final month.
The ever-stoic Posey insisted that neither injuries nor fatigue were stifling his power. By at least one measure, his pure hitting ability remained intact. He posted a .336 average (38-for-113) on high fastballs last year, reflecting his healthy bat speed.
Posey also made his fourth All-Star team, finished 14th in Most Valuable Player Award balloting, and he won his first Gold Glove for defensive excellence, wresting the honor from St. Louis' Yadier Molina.
This demonstrated that Posey, who turns 30 on March 27, has raised expectations for himself so much that a season which would make most catchers envious leaves his followers wanting more.
Posey's indeed prepared to give more. He will play for the United States in next month's World Baseball Classic. Named by fans as the unofficial "face of baseball" in a 2015 online poll, Posey promises to be a fitting representative for the U.S., which did not reach the Classic finals during any of the previous three tournaments. Posey will join a fellow Giants VIP, shortstop Brandon Crawford, on the U.S. squad.
"I'm good with it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's obvious [Posey] has got to get himself ready a little sooner than he normally would. But I think anytime you can help the U.S. team with a Posey or a Crawford, we want to do our part. We want to be ambassadors to the game any way we can. ... I know the U.S. team is trying to improve and show some pride and win this thing."
Preparing for the Classic will push Posey to be game-ready by early March, which could accelerate his progress toward midseason form -- literally. He's a .280 career hitter in April/March, a figure that rises to .291 in May, .323 in June and .336 in July.
The Giants believe that Posey's participation won't impact his obligations to the Giants, which seem to increase annually. Widely regarded as a potential Hall of Fame candidate, Posey started a career-high 122 games behind the plate last year. That total isn't likely to change much, despite San Francisco's recent acquisition of Nick Hundley, a proven catcher.
"Every season, the more we can keep Buster behind the plate and healthy, the stronger the team is," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said.
Both Posey and the Giants steadfastly maintain that he won't switch to another position, though leaving behind the grueling duties of catching might preserve his offensive skills. First base has been mentioned as Posey's most likely destination if he did switch spots. But Brandon Belt, that position's current occupant, has a six-year contract that extends through 2021.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.