The first round of the MLB draft is in the books, and the SF Giants have taken catcher Patrick Bailey.
On the surface, this appears to be an odd selection of Patrick Bailey with the 13th overall pick in the MLB draft, as the San Francisco Giants have seemingly tabbed Joey Bart as the catcher of the future.
It gets even more complicated since Bailey profiles as a defense-first catcher, meaning that he is a true catcher unlike, perhaps, Soderstrom. In three seasons at North Carolina State, the 21-year-old never appeared at a position other than behind the dish.
So, the decision to select him in the first round raises some questions. For example, what is the long-term strategy with both Bailey and Bart? They could split time between catcher, first base, and DH when it becomes universal.
On this note, the idea of experimenting with Bart at different positions to expand his versatility has been lightly discussed previously.
With that being said, what does Patrick Bailey bring to the table?
As has been mentioned, Bailey is known as a strong defender behind the plate. Dan Zielinski III of the Baseball Prospect Journal raved about Bailey’s catching acumen:
“Bailey is 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds and profiles as a catcher long term. He’s a defensive-first catcher, who possesses athleticism, above-average arm strength and solid receiving skills. He also understands how to handle a pitching staff and called about 75 percent of the pitches thrown by North Carolina State pitchers last season.”
This is the type of defensive profile that should have no problem adjusting to professional baseball. The fact that he was calling the majority of the games at North Carolina State is a unique trait for a college catcher, and reminiscent of Joey Bart’s career at Georgia Tech.
His offensive profile carries some upside as well, but it does lag behind his work with the glove. In three collegiate seasons, Bailey posted a .302/.411/.568 line with 29 home runs and 106 RBI.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made it a point to target position players who control the strike zone:
1R (13): Giants select C/SHH Patrick Bailey (21.0Y, 6’2” 198) out of NC State. Strong defensively, good arm, good raw power from both sides, high walk rates, feel to elevate, strikeout issues, average hit tool.
Junior: 73PA .296/.466/.685, 18K/17BB, 6HR.pic.twitter.com/XUzuSMGjHL
— GPT (@giantsprospects) June 11, 2020
The switch-hitter brings this to the table as he has posted a stout 14.8 percent walk rate against a 16 percent strikeout rate. He is patient, knows the strike zone, and attacks pitches he can do damage to.
Though, he has shown elevated strikeout tendencies against higher quality pitcher. This will be a trend to follow as he develops.
These are the traits Zaidi has coveted as he believes that the ability to hit and hit for power can best be developed if a prospect first possesses solid pitch recognition and strike zone awareness qualities.
The power grades out as average, but at a premium position like catcher, average power plays way up. However, the hit tool needs to be further refined, and it looks like he has a bit of a hitch in the front side of his swing.
This is not the most exciting offensive profile, but one that could translate to solid major league production. If the hit tool does not develop as planned, then the ability to get on-base will become important. Similarly, if the raw power does not translate to the game, then the ability to hit from both sides should keep him in the lineup.
These are a couple of bigs ifs, but there’s some potential to grow beyond just an average-dependent hitter or a power hitter with major strikeout issues. Over the past decade, the Giants often went with the high floor player to minimize risk, and even that strategy did not pay off.
The point is, Bailey carries some offensive tools that increase the variability in his potential upside, whether good or bad.
There is some risk to this, but the ceiling is a bit higher than the Giants have sought in recent years.
In fact, Bailey has a fan in Zaidi:
Farhan Zaidi said it was an easy decision to take Patrick Bailey. He was best player left on Giants board. “You don’t draft for need and you can never have too much catching,” he said.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 11, 2020
This is true. In baseball, you do not draft for need. You draft the best player available, and that is what the Giants seemingly did with Bailey. They have a surplus at catcher now, but that will resolve itself in time.
This was not a reach by any means. Most mock drafts had Bailey going in the middle of the first round. It is possible that the 21-year-old signs for under slot value, which would give San Franicsco more money to spread through the rest of the draft.
I think the bigger surprise is that San Francisco passed on Tyler Soderstrom after seemingly being connected to him for the better part of three months. The honeymoon phase for Zaidi is over, but he has proven to have an eye for talent in his brief tenure.
Does this mean we should not scrutinize the moves he makes? Absolutely not. Though, the initial reaction to draft picks in baseball is normally flawed as it takes years for a first-round pick to fully develop. As a result, patience is needed as Zaidi may see untapped potential in the switch hitter from North Carolina.