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Examining the Giants catcher options

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With Buster Posey opting out for the season, who will get the reps at catcher?

San Francisco Giants Summer Workouts Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Four days ago, San Francisco Giants MVP Buster Posey opted out of the 2020 season, citing the premature birth of twin girls that he and his wife, Kristen, are adopting.

Posey was placed on the restricted list, and with that the Giants find themselves with exactly zero catchers on the 40-man roster.

That is not a typo. The Giants — who entered the offseason with just Posey and the now-injured Aramis Garcia as the lone backstops — have zero catchers on the 40-man roster.

That will change, of course. They’ll add at least two catchers to the roster in the next ten days, ahead of their July 23 season opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The question is who? With Posey gone, the Giants now have five catchers in camp. Three of those catchers have never appeared in an MLB game. One of them has 12 career plate appearances. And one has 429, less than a full season’s worth.

Where do they turn from here?

Quite likely: Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly

Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly entered Spring Training in a battle to back up Posey. Sure, there were other names in camp, but it seemed pretty clear that it would be one of those two providing Posey spells behind the plate.

When Summer Camp rolled around, nothing had changed, except that maybe the team would carry both Heineman and Brantly instead of one or the other.

Now, with Posey out until 2021, these two Minor League journeymen are the prohibitive favorites to start the season.

Neither is a particularly exciting option, with both projecting to be solid backups rather than starters. And neither played well in Spring Training. Heineman (who is the option with 12 career plate appearances) went 2-16 with 4 walks and no extra-base hits. Brantly (who is the only option on the roster who has received regular MLB playing time) was not much better, going 5-20 with 1 double and 0 walks.

Again: not exciting options. And not even safe options. But options.

Decently likely: Chadwick Tromp

Tromp was a long shot to earn a backup spot over Heineman or Brantly when the team first convened in February, and he did himself no favors in a small sample size, hitting 1-10 with 1 walk in Spring Training.

He was initially left off of the 60-player pool, but added a few days after everyone else (perhaps he was added once the team found out that the newest members of the Posey clan were on their way?).

From what little we know of Summer Camp, it would appear that Tromp is doing everything he can to make the roster. Most of the beat reporters attending workouts have highlighted his performance thus far.

Tromp is a bit more exciting, and a bit riskier than Brantly and Heineman. He had a very strong AAA season last year, albeit with a small sample size. In 90 plate appearances he slashed .286/.369/.610, with 7 home runs.

That .999 OPS sure looks nice, but it also could be a massive outlier. Tromp’s 2018 OPS was .675 in nearly 300 plate appearances across AA and AAA. It also looks less impressive when you note that Heineman rocked a .990 OPS in a much larger AAA sample size last year.

Still, Tromp is impressing in Summer Camp, and he’s just 25, which gives some reason to be optimistic that he could be turning a corner.

Plausible but less likely: an outside hire

We know Farhan Zaidi likes to churn. This was, after all, the guy who acquired catcher Tom Murphy last Spring Training, traded him before the season started, added catcher Erik Kratz, traded him after a few weeks, and then proceeded with Stephen Vogt.

In a normal year, Zaidi and Scott Harris likely would have signed two more catchers, traded for two more, traded away all four of them, and signed and traded for a few new ones.

But this isn’t a normal year, and it’s unlikely that there will be as much churning. I wouldn’t put it past them to acquire a proven replacement level veteran like Kratz. And Russell Martin remains unsigned. Still, it’s more likely that they just move forward with Heineman/Brantly/Tromp.

Unlikely: Joey Bart

Bart had a lot of steam entering Spring Training, which is pretty normal for a hot prospect in a rapidly developing farm with a bad Major League team. He stoked the flames by being the team’s top catcher in the preseason, hitting 7-16 with 1 double, 2 home runs, and 3 walks.

But Zaidi put some water on the fire by re-assigning Bart to the Minor Leagues before the coronavirus suspended the season. And any talk that he might start the truncated season on the roster was pretty quickly shut down by Zaidi as well.

Right now it seems like the longest of shots that Bart would make the Opening Day roster. But if the catchers struggle for a few weeks, and the organization needs something to make the fans excited? Well then maybe they’ll pull the trigger on getting Bart’s service time started early.

Not happening: Patrick Bailey

The last catcher in camp also deserves a mention, even if there isn’t a single scenario in which he suits up for the Giants this year.