2. C Joey Bart
Acquired: 2018 draft (1st round)
Future Value: 55 (grade up)
I’ve been the low man on Joey Bart since the lead up to the 2018 draft. His profile was incredibly reminiscent of Mike Zunino, and first-round catchers outside of Buster Posey just do not have a very good recent track record.
It is approaching the point where I have to start eating some crow.
The important thing with Bart will be tempering expectations. There is only one Buster Posey, and even if Bart reaches his ceiling, he likely won’t make the same impact that Posey has in his career. Bart has a great chance of developing into an All-Star caliber player, but there’s a reason Posey already has a strong Hall of Fame case.
Bart entered his junior season at Georgia Tech as an above-average defensive catcher with plus power, but there were substantial questions about his hit tool that left him out of the first-round conversation.
That spring, he doubled his walk rate, lowered his strikeouts, and continued to punish the ball while improving his defensive acumen. That quickly vaulted him into the top-10 pick conversation and he eventually became the San Francisco Giants clear target at No. 2 overall.
After a strong pro debut, he was sent to High-A to start the 2019 season, where he didn’t exactly excel. He missed time with a fractured hand and took some time to shake off the rust upon returning. The plate discipline improvements he showed in college also didn’t see to carry over.
Despite his modest production, he was aggressively promoted to Double-A, and he responded by absolutely crushing the ball. In 87 plate appearances following the promotion, he hit a robust .316/.368/.544. His strikeout rate jumped more than four percentage points to 24.1 percent, but his walk rate jumped along with it to 8 percent.
To make up for the lost plate appearances, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League. Through 10 games, he hit .333/.524/.767 with four home runs and more walks (9) than strikeouts (7), before getting hit on the hand and suffering a fractured thumb. If not for the injury, he would have claimed the No. 1 spot in these rankings.
Beyond the offensive production, Bart is already an above-average catcher, and he receives rave reviews for his intangibles. At this point, an outcome like Zunino seems like the floor for Bart, with a ceiling as a plus-defensive catcher with 25-homer power.
A strong spring will put him in Triple-A to start the year, and a 2020 debut is well within the realm of possibility.