The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Yankees players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 7, catcher Jorge Posada.
If you work off of the assumption that Jorge Posada will spend the 2011 season tutoring one of the Yankees' catching prospects and transitioning the club to the next era of Yankee backstops, then the upcoming campaign will be his last go-round as Jorge Posada, Full-Time Yankee Catcher. And make no mistake: The Yankees still consider him Jorge Posada, Full-Time Yankee Catcher: They expect him to be behind the plate for as many as 120 games this season.
Posada turns 39 in August, and history says that could be a problem for a catcher. Posada's last great season was back in 2007, and his defense was borderline hard to watch at times during the playoffs last year. But when he was healthy in 2009, Posada posted an OPS of .885, third highest on the team, after Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Posada's been here forever, yet we can't really know what to expect from him. Age will do that to a catcher. If he's healthy, few teams have as good a hitter in the bottom half of their order. If he's not, then we'll learn how good Francisco Cervelli is, and fast.
The biggest drama surrounding Posada this spring involves his ability (or lack thereof) to work with A.J. Burnett. You'll recall that Burnett so preferred to work with Jose Molina last year that it kept Posada out of the lineup twice during the World Series alone. Both men have downplayed the controversy, though we're sure Burnett's concerns are very real. (Not to pick on Posada too much for his pitch calling, but Burnett's not the first Yankee to have a personal catcher.) The thing about pitch calling, though, is that of all the things a catcher does, it's the one that shouldn't get worse with age. So maybe, it's really the least of their concerns.