So far this spring training, the San Francisco Giants have used six catchers. Two of them, Johnny Monell and Jackson Williams did not have a shot at making the major leagues. Bengie Molina will be the number one catcher, but the question is who will be his backup? Buster Posey, Eli Whiteside, and Steve Holm have all been given a look so far, and each has had a taste in the major leagues at some point, with the Giants, over the last few seasons.
Below, we will examine each one of these four catchers and at the end, hopefully reach a decision on who the two should be.
For the last three seasons, Molina has proven to be one of the main catalysts in the Giants offense. In his first season with the team, he set a career high in RBI’s with 81. In his second season, he topped that with 95. And in his third season, he set a career high for homeruns with 20.
He has done everything asked of him, which includes playing stellar defense and working the Giants ultra-young pitching staff. It was for that reason, that I wanted him to re-sign in San Francisco this off-season, amidst talks he was looking to go elsewhere.
So in my opinion, Molina should get the majority of playing time this season and towards the end of the season, they could call up Buster Posey, who can learn from Molina. Being a free agent at the end of this season, he could then go on to another team, while passing the torch to the Giants top prospect catcher.
Late last season, the Giants gave their phenom top prospect a look at the major league level. He would only go 2 for 17, but in the 40 innings he caught, he had a perfect fielding percentage. For a rookie catcher, this is almost just as important, as his offensive skill can be tapped into, but defense, sometimes, is never learned.
This spring, Posey is making a strong case that he should remain in the majors at the start of the season. He is batting .389 along with 1 homerun and 8 RBI’s, and if performance so far was an indication on whether or not he deserves to make it, then he would. But unfortunately, the situation is more complex.
The Giants, recognizing that Posey may be ready, have begun to experiment with him at first base. To me, this is the worst thing they can do. Remember when John Bowker first got called up two seasons ago? He was playing right field and hitting homeruns left and right. Then the Giants tried to get versatility out of him and make him a first baseman as well. It may be just complete coincidence, but his average and power production went down significantly from there, and has playing for Fresno within two months.
Giants fans want to see him in the majors now, but they must remain patient. You can never be too careful in being patient with young players, and putting him at first base just to get him at-bats is the wrong thing to do. Posey is a catcher, and should remain one, even if it means having to wait until next season to see him.
Eli Whiteside and Steve Holm
Whiteside was the epitome of being a backup catcher, when he played for the Giants last season. Nothing fancy, nothing glaring; just a simple role as the backup catcher. He played solid defense when he came in late in games in relief of Molina, and bat .228 while hitting 2 homeruns and driving in 13, in what was in first season in the majors in four years.
That job belonged to Steve Holm the season before last, and although he hit for a better average that Whiteside, he has not gotten much of a look this spring, leading me to believe he is out of the realm of possibility for getting that backup catching job.
Bengie Molina will start the season as the Giants’ number one catcher. He should get the majority of the playing time, and should catch the games where Lincecum, Cain, and possibly, Pucetas pitch. His experience will continue to further their development.
My choice for the backup will go to Eli Whiteside. He worked very well with Jonathon Sanchez last season, including his no-hit performance, and could also relieve Molina on days that Zito pitches, because the veteran does not need a mentor like the other three.
As I said earlier, Posey should remain in the minors where he can continue to develop his skills, so that next season, he can replace Molina as the starting catcher for the Giants. Should Molina get injured, though, I would not be surprised to see him called up right then and thrust into the role immediately.