Buster Posey will remain the San Francisco Giants' "primary catcher" in 2021 and will get "the lion's share of the reps" behind the plate despite the presence of top prospect Joey Bart, second-year manager Gabe Kapler said during a session with the media Tuesday.
Posey, a six-time All-Star who is owed $21.4 million in what could be the final year of his contract, sat out 2020 amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic after he and his wife adopted twin girls who were born prematurely. Bart, ESPN's seventh-ranked prospect in March, was called up to temporarily replace Posey and struggled through a .233/.288/.320 slash line in 111 plate appearances.
"I don't think it's any secret that last year was a struggle for Joey on a number of different levels," Kapler said. "We think the development that he had, the development time that he had at the major league level, was really good for him. And we'll continue to assess his readiness and just think about Buster as a sure-fire lock for our Opening Day roster and the lion's share of the reps back there."
Posey, 33, struggled while coming off hip surgery in 2019, batting .257/.320/.368 with seven homers and 24 doubles in 114 games. In seven prior seasons, Posey batted .308/.378/.466 while averaging 16 homers, 31 doubles and 141 games a year -- and Kapler hinted that he might be capable of unlocking similar production.
"He really is in great physical condition," Kapler said. "I think everyone will notice when they see him that he's added some muscle, some usable lean tissue. He's looking agile and strong and fresh. I think the time off gave him an opportunity to reassess where his body was and he's taking that opportunity to make improvements, some physical conditioning improvements."
Bart, who turned 24 on Tuesday, still projects as the Giants' catcher of the future. But a resurgence from Posey could allow the organization to take its time with his development. Posey's nine-year, $167 million extension comes with a $22 million club option for the 2022 season and a $3 million buyout. The former MVP has logged about 17% of his starts in the field at first base, giving the Giants some versatility if they want to keep Bart on the active roster.
"It's kinda difficult to say an exact number of games a week we expect Buster to catch, but obviously everybody on this call knows he'll be our primary catcher," Kapler said. "Not just a voice we'll lean on heavily, but between the lines, we're gonna utilize his brain and his body to the best of our ability."