Before the praise of the new guy, start with the obvious: Trevor Brown has a career .616 OPS in the minor leagues. This was the first season out of four in which he posted an on-base percentage over .300. If you're expecting Chris Stewart-levels of offensive competence, the burden of proof is on you. The stats aren't there. Not yet.
And now for the praise: Brown looks solid defensively. In a hilariously small sample, he's down with Hector Sanchez when it comes to framing numbers, but he passes the eye test. He looks comfortable back there, and his age (23) and relative inexperience (this is just his second full season as a catcher) hint that there's some defensive development left. He's up only because of the injuries, but he has a chance to become a solid backup one day. He took a step forward offensively this year despite advancing a level. Maybe there's enough Duffy dust to go around.
Rather than opine on Brown's chances to stick around (because I have no idea), it's time to revisit one of the ideas from last winter, that Andrew Susac was going to be a secret weapon. He would allow Buster Posey to rest more, and he would get more power into the lineup against lefties. The downside was that Brandon Belt would play less, but once he started picking up spring innings in the outfield, the rotation was back on. It was going to keep everyone fitter, happier, and more productive.
Injuries futzed it all up, of course. Susac started the season in the minors, in part because of various injuries, and when he finally arrived, he was more of a standard backup catcher than a secret weapon. He hit a little, but not nearly as much as hoped. In July, we revisited the idea of Susac as the lineup's fifth Beatle, and the conclusion was that maybe his trade value would be his ultimate gift to the Giants.
With a full season almost behind us, it's time to see what we've learned with the Giants' backup-catcher situation.
- Backup catchers play infrequently enough, even with Posey's time at first, and that means it's really, really hard for one of them to be that secret weapon.
- Because they play infrequently, I'd imagine it's pretty hard for them to keep their timing down and swing fresh, too.
- Susac's value is going to be limited as a backup because of this.
The second-best catcher on the 40-man roster is Susac, and it isn't even close. He's going to make the Giants a better team than anyone they could promote, keep, or spend on. Don't take this as a plea to keep Brown, or Jackson Williams, or whomever as the backup in perpetuity. Susac makes the team better.
But after a full season of Susac not being a 200-at-bat thumper and bench hero, I'm prepared to admit that it's not going to live up to the wildest fantasies for 2014, when he had a .466 slugging percentage and our hearts. The dream is (mostly) dead.
I don't know whether that means he'll really be more valuable to the Giants as a trade chip, or if he'll stick around, doing his thing, and we'll all be happier now that expectations are more reasonable. If the right trade came along, though, I wouldn't be opposed to sticking with a Brown, Williams, or Chris Stewart-type, though. We've seen them work before. The Giants haven't been immeasurably worse with one of them to close out the season, either.
That secret-weapon idea was really fun for a while, though. We'll probably never have to think like that again.