Hundley's impact could carry over to next year

Hundley's impact could carry over to next year

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will undoubtedly spend time evaluating their needs this offseason to turn the tide after a tough 2017.

One bright spot to the nearly complete campaign: They've found a productive pairing, thanks to All-Star Buster Posey and Nick Hundley, whom the Giants signed to a one-year, $2 million contract over the offseason.

"It's been outstanding having him here," reliever Cory Gearrin said of Hundley.

"We're honestly really spoiled," Gearrin added. "I can't think of anybody in baseball who has two quality catchers like us. They continue to learn from one another. That's been an exciting thing. They're both incredibly accomplished."

That 1-2 punch could translate over to next season, too. Hundley said playing alongside Posey -- "the best catcher in the world" -- factored into his offseason decision. While he's not on pace for a career offensive season, Hundley's barrel rate -- a Statcast™ metric based on exit velocity and launch angle -- increased again this year. Entering the weekend series against Arizona, Hundley owned an 8.1 percent rate, an increase from 5.3 percent last year and 3.8 percent in 2015.

And despite limited playing time, Hundley leads the current roster with two post-All-Star-break walk-off hits.

"He probably doesn't get the recognition he deserves," Gearrin said. "He puts together great at-bats every time he goes up."

Must C: Giants' walk-off win

Hitting aside, Hundley has experienced a bit of a revival this season tutoring the Giants' young pitchers. With first baseman Brandon Belt unavailable (concussion), Hundley's starts have increased.

"It's invigorating," Hundley said. "It keeps you locked in. Being able to work with these young guys, there's a lot of talent, too. They're not just young. It gives you a lot more energy to come work out with them."

That feeling is mutual for Giants rookie Chris Stratton, who has thrown to Hundley more often (38 innings) than Posey (10) this year. Stratton has emerged as a serious candidate for the 2018 rotation.

He hopes to have Hundley help for his sophomore season.

"I'd love to see him back here," Stratton said. "Not only on the field -- he's been very productive -- but also being a great leader in the clubhouse. I think a lot of people look up to him. Not just me."

Added Gearrin, "I think it would be a huge asset for us to have him back."

Hundley insists he's not one to diverge from the day to day, allowing himself to ponder his future in San Francisco.

But Hundley and the Giants have an offseason decision to make. Posey needs the occasional off-day. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Hundley's productivity makes it easier for him to shift Posey to first.

Considering that scenario alone, Hundley could be an important piece of the 2018 puzzle. For his part, Hundley has enjoyed his time in San Francisco.

"I love these guys," Hundley said. "They've been great to work with. There's a lot of champions in this room. Being around those type of people is a huge positive. … There's a lot of positives here.

"I don't talk about futuristic things at this point. But I definitely like it here."

Jonathan Hawthorne is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.