SF Giants top prospects: No. 2 — C Joey Bart
Highest Level: Double-A (Richmond)
Acquired: Draft (2018)
Future-Value Grade: 50+
I’ve been the low man on Joey Bart since the lead up to the 2018 draft. His profile reminded me of Mike Zunino, and first-round catchers outside of Buster Posey just do not have a very strong track record.
I’ve had to eat some crow on that projection so far.
The important thing with Bart will be tempering expectations. There is only one Buster Posey, and even if Bart approaches 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 is probably the only active catcher with 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 toward the back 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 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 appear 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 a 55 future-value grade.
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 an outcome as a plus-defensive catcher consistently batting .275 with 25-homer power in sight.
The Giants decision to leave Bart at the team’s alternate site in Sacramento following Posey’s decision to opt-out of the 2020 season was probably somewhat impacted by service time management. But there’s a fair argument to make that Bart deserves more low-pressure opportunities to develop.
In Sacramento, Bart has gotten some work on the infield dirt. Obviously first base is a place to start, but his arm and reaction time might put third base in play as well (although the Giants haven’t mentioned it). Either way, continuing to refine Bart’s approach likely remains the main priority since his swing taps into his power so effortlessly.