Baseball is finally here and this year is full of intriguing storylines. Can Chicago repeat? What crazy stats will mega stars like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout put up this season? Which young prospects will emerge as the faces of their franchises? It is sure to be a year of intrigue and the baseball players who have graced our cover promise to be at the center of all the action. So let’s take a look at some of baseball’s biggest names, break down what to watch for from them this year, and check out what they’ll be wearing on game day.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Center Fielder
Let’s start with a 5-time All-Star and 2-time MVP. Trout is coming off another monstrous individual year, but is focused on leading LA back to the postseason for the first time since 2014.
The world champs got the breakout season they needed from Bryant last season. His .292 BA, 39 HRs, and 102 RBIs earned him a well-deserved MVP award. Want to hear the crazy part? At only 25 years old, he’s still got plenty of room to grow.
Miami had their best record in six years last year and will count on their mighty cleanup hitter, Stanton, to power their offense. The three-time All-Star has over 200 career homers and is sure to launch plenty more long bombs in 2017.
Few players make as big of an impact on the diamond as Kiermaier does. The two-time Gold Glover is one of the best defensive players the game has seen in a long time. He also took major strides on the offensive side last year, setting career highs in HRs and OBP.
Speaking of outstanding defensive players, Posey finally captured his first Gold Glove in 2016. It was a long time coming for the veteran star who has been a lynchpin on both sides of the plate for the perennial contenders.
The surefire first ballot Hall of Famer will look to add to his ridiculous trophy case which already includes 3 Cy Young Awards, 1 MVP, and 6 All-Stars. But at this point, the one he really cares about and has a nice spot cleared out for is that world title ring.
Boston’s trusty starting shortstop would love to win his third consecutive Silver Slugger award this season, but he’s much more concerned about getting his team back to the Fall Classic for the first time since his rookie year in 2013.
In early November I made the case that San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was much more than Rookie of the Year especially to San Francisco fans. Coming from a fan that has waited his whole life for the opportunity to buy that golden ticket that every fan dreams of, I saw first hand the impact of this young star. It was apparent, even watching from a position that challenged my abilities to be objective, that there is something special about Buster Posey and the passion that he brings to the game of baseball. In late November Major League Baseball acknowledged his impact, as well as his potential by naming Posey the 2010 Rookie of the Year.
Eastbay was able to catch up with Buster Posey while the Giants made a stop at Wrigley Field to take on the Chicago Cubs earlier this year. It seemed appropriate that as Buster Posey was a key in leading the Giants to their first World Series since moving to San Francisco over 50 years ago, he’d make the perfect athlete to cover the Eastbay Fielder’s Choice catalog. Posey’s professionalism and class shines though in a couple of the behind the scenes videos from the photo shoot, as does his passion for the game and respect for those around him that helped him along the way.
Like many of us who love sports and have siblings, Buster’s memories from childhood tell of when the Eastbay Catalog arrived and quickly became the hot commodity of the household. Although Buster is hoping his brother doesn’t see the videos, it’s a safe bet that with his brother on the cover he most likely will.
Find out what it’s like for Buster Posey to be an Under Armour sponsored athlete, as well as some of the keys to his success below.
Although voting for the rookie of the year has to be submitted well before the postseason begins, both of this year’s winners played like veterans through October. Texas Rangers rookie closer Neftali Feliz and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey were announced as the American League and National League Rookie of the Year Award winners today.
Neftali Feliz ranked third in the American League in saves. Feliz ended the season with rookie record 40 saves, while giving up just just 3 blown saves. In 69 1/3 innings Feliz struck out 71 batters and walked a mere 18. Feliz helped the Rangers into the franchise’s very first World Series this year. In the postseason Feliz recorded another save and struck out 11 batters in just 7 1/3. Feliz grabbed 20 first place votes out of a possible 28.
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey grabbed National League Rookie of the Year honors. He ended the year with a .305 batting average, 18 home runs and 67 runs batted in. Posey was equally impressive on the defensive side with a caught stealing percentage of .371, giving up just one passed ball on the season. Posey was a key in the San Francisco Giants success, leading the team passed a handful of tough teams in both the regular season and the postseason. Posey was given 20 out of a possible 32 first place votes.
This year marks the first time since 1981 that both Rookie of the Year Award winners met in the World Series. Then it was Dave Righetti while with the New York Yankees and Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Righetti ironically is the current pitching coach for the Giants.
Look for Buster Posey on an upcoming Eastbay catalog cover soon.
As far as catchers go in the game of baseball, there are only a handful of names that have had what it takes to become legends in the history of the game. Even fewer that seem to have what it takes to excel offensively, defensively, and in the leadership role that the position requires. The first few that come to my mind are Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk. In more current times, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada could be in the running, but it would likely be a stretch. Unlike any other position on the field, being behind the plate and calling pitches requires more than just skill. Playing catcher requires an understanding that the battle that exists between the pitcher and opposing batter is far closer to a game of chess than a game of checkers. Someday soon you’ll be able to add another name to that short list, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
Although each of those catchers were well above the cut in all the on-field categories, most were equally known for the quality of person they were off the field as well. In this aspect, baseball fans as a whole got to witness his good nature throughout the 2010 World Series, so even fans outside of the San Francisco Giants and outside of his hometown region of Leesburg, Georgia, can attest to his genuineness and sportsmanship.
In the history of Major League Baseball there have been just 10 catchers to lead their team to the World Series in their rookie season. From the above list of stars that played the position, only Yogi Berra was able to lead his team to a World Series title in his first year. Not to discredit Berra in any way, as he is nothing short of legendary and in my mind one of the two greatest of all time alongside Johnny Bench, but keep in mind his time with the Yankees was in the middle of the greatest 25 years in the history of the team.
Twenty-three-year-old Buster Posey became the 11th on that list this year for the San Francisco Giants. On top of that, Posey became the first catcher to ever lead his team into the World Series and bat in the cleanup position in the 106-year history of the World Series, a place that became his regular spot in the batting order thanks to his incredible start.
When Posey was called up in May of 2010 from the minor leagues and subsequently becoming the starting catcher for the Giants at the end of June, Buster became a fan favorite. Posey took the National League by storm. In early July, he earned Player of the Week honors. His July would continue to impress all the doubters with a 21-game hitting streak and a batting average in the mid .400 range. By the time July was over, Major League Baseball awarded Posey with not only the Rookie of the Month Award, but also the Player of the Month Award. Posey finished the regular season with a batting average of .305, 18 home runs, and 67 runs batted in.
Some might say that Posey is still young and shouldn’t be compared to some of these legendary players as he has yet to prove himself over the years. However, with defensive skills that rival his offensive performance, it’s easy to see that Buster Posey’s potential is beyond greatness.
Defensively Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench are the best to ever play the position of catcher. The 23 Gold Glove Awards between them are solid evidence of that. Bench had a rifle arm and hands big enough to stop nearly every pitch that came to him. “Pudge” was nearly as impressive at catching would-be base stealers, and possibly better at digging balls out of the dirt, arguably the best. When it comes to gunning down runners, Giants fans already know Buster ain’t having that.
Posey’s .371 caught stealing percentage lands him behind only Miguel Olivo and Yadier Molina for the 2010 season. However, if you take into account that three of the Giants pitchers have some of the slowest deliveries in the league, those numbers might not tell the whole story. Another story that might not be told when it comes to Buster’s defensive abilities is the number 1. Posey allowed just one passed ball this season. Taking into account the number of strikeout pitches that are thrown in the dirt from guys like Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, Posey was hardly short of perfection when behind home plate.
Even if Buster Posey doesn’t join names like Bench, Fisk, Piazza and Benito Santiago as one of the few catchers to ever be named Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Year next week when the winner is announced, he’s got a nice jump on meeting them in Cooperstown when his career comes to an end.