New season near, no capping Posey's potential

Reigning National League MVP continues to develop both at plate and behind it

New season near, no capping Posey's potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Buster Posey wants his business to remain his business.

Asked about his goals for 2013, Posey said politely, "There are certain things with hitting that I'd like to keep to myself that I'll work on."

But if this season even slightly resembles the path of Posey's career thus far, his performance will eventually reveal his secrets. His extra-base hit totals will reflect his desire to upgrade his power. His batting average will demonstrate how much he covets consistency.

The same goes for Posey's defense. He doesn't have to address that he surrendered 87 stolen bases last year, the Major Leagues' second-highest total. Expect that number to shrink, given his success in other areas. Or, for a barometer of his defense overall, simply consult the Giants' record, since he influences each game's outcome as their starting catcher.

Just don't make the mistake of assuming that Posey has peaked.

Posey's 2012 effort -- featuring a Major League-best .336 batting average, with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs -- was so prodigious that it's easy to conclude he cannot surpass it.

But placing limits on Posey seems rather foolish. The Giants won World Series in the two seasons that he finished healthy. He topped the NL Rookie of the Year Award he won in 2010 with NL Most Valuable Player honors in '12.

Comparing Posey to certain icons rouses the imagination. Another Giant led the team to the World Series and captured a batting title in the first pair of seasons he finished. His name was Willie Mays. Posey's career totals include 67 doubles, 46 homers and 191 RBIs. Through two seasons and a fraction of a third, the finest catcher of a previous era had 66 doubles, 42 homers and 178 RBIs. That would be Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.

Maybe Posey will slide gradually into mediocrity. Or maybe the Giants have another budding legend in their midst, one who will someday figuratively stand tall alongside the likes of Mays, Willie McCovey, Mel Ott and Barry Bonds. Reminded that Posey's two seasons of 100 games or more coincided with the Giants' World Series triumphs, general manager Brian Sabean legitimized the link.

"If you look at what he's done with the pitching staff and in the middle of the order, sure, he can pull a lot of weight," Sabean said of Posey, who will turn 26 on March 27. "Baseball's usually not like that. But he's close. There's no doubt he's our franchise player."

In hopes of sustaining his prowess, Posey focused during the offseason on maintaining his 2012 playing weight, which ranged from 205-210 pounds. He concentrated on honing his agility and the leg drive he needs to burst out of his catcher's crouch.

"I don't want to get that heavy, dumpy feeling," Posey said before Giants pitchers and catchers participated in their first spring workout on Wednesday.

Manager Bruce Bochy preserved Posey's stamina last season by starting him 29 times at first base, which spared Posey from the rigors of catching while keeping his bat in the lineup. Bochy envisions a similiar split of duties this year.

"It worked well," Bochy said. "I think Buster liked it. It seemed to keep him fresh."

The possibility of Posey's moving permanently to first base looms in the background. He has been steadfast in his desire to catch as long as the Giants will let him.

"The big kicker, as with any player, is that you want to remain as productive as you possibly can," Posey said. Citing Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer, another offensively skilled performer, Posey said, "I think I read something where he mentioned he wished he would have backed off a little bit earlier in his career, to where he didn't have some of those nagging injuries. So there's definitely a balance there. But I want to spend the bulk of my time [catching]."

Currently, health isn't an issue for Posey, whose 2012 feats represented a remarkable comeback from the horrific left leg injuries resulting from a May 25, 2011, home-plate collision against the Marlins that sidelined him for the rest of that season.

"My ankle feels great," Posey said. "It's night and day."

Posey's desire for continuity explained why he declined to participate for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He said he wanted to "have a normal Spring Training, to where it can be uninterrupted and get my work in with a consistent routine."

Though Posey won't divulge his specific objectives, his general ones are easy to discern.

"You never stop trying to improve," Bochy said. "That's what great players do."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.