SF Giants fans had been eagerly awaiting Joey Bart’s arrival, but has he met expectations in the early going?
Since he was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Joey Bart has been tabbed as the heir apparent to the catching throne at Oracle Park. Needless to say, the SF Giants (and their fans) have clearly had lofty expectations for him.
Bart has accumulated just 66 plate appearances heading into this pivotal four-game series against the San Diego Padres. It’s obviously a small sample, but there are trends we can begin to analyze.
On the year, the right-handed bat has slashed a solid .283/.348/.367 line (98 OPS+) with a 3.0 percent walk rate against a 31.8 percent strikeout rate.
While the low walk rate is concerning, Bart has been able to complement this with a knack for getting hit by a pitch. He has worked only two walks, but he has been hit four times already. He’s also worked a number of 2-2 and 3-2 counts as well.
Given that he broke his hand on two separate occasions last season due to errant throws, I am going to have to request, no, DEMAND, that pitchers stop hitting Joey Bart.
His slash line is not earth-shattering by any means, but he is keeping his head above water. It is really a good starting point, especially if he is able to build off of that.
That said, he has posted an extremely high 31.8 percent strikeout rate. My concern when he was promoted was how much swing-and-miss was going to be in his game. That 31.8 percent rate is high, but hopefully, he can bring that number down as he gains more experience.
Javier Baez and Aaron Judge are a couple of recent examples of players who struck out well north of 40 percent in their respective rookie campaigns but were able to bring that number down to a tolerable level afterwords.
Despite this wrinkle, Bart is doing a lot of good things when he makes contact. When he makes contact, it is loud:
Exit velocity: 109.5 mph 🔥
Joey Bart’s first career hit was an absolute 🚀 pic.twitter.com/Pu4HntCvSL
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 21, 2020
Joey Bart’s underlying numbers with the SF Giants
I will start with the bad news first. Bart has generated a ground ball in 51.3 percent of his batted ball events to go along with an average launch angle of 10.6 degrees. So, he has not been able to lift-and-separate like we have seen him do plenty of times at the minor league level.
However, he has consistently made hard contact. With an average exit velocity of 90.6 MPH, Bart’s exit velocity profile sits in the same neighborhood as Brandon Belt (90.8 MPH), Darin Ruf (89.0 MPH), and Alex Dickerson (90.9 MPH). That’s definitely not a bad neighborhood to purchase real estate.
And then there is this:
Since Joey Bart’s MLB debut on August 20, he ranks second on the #SFGiants in batted balls with exit velocities of at least 100 mph.
1. Evan Longoria: 20
2. Joey Bart: 16
3. Mike Yastrzemski: 12
4. Brandon Belt: 11
5. Alex Dickerson: 10
— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) September 10, 2020
So, while pitchers have been able to prevent Bart from getting a lift in his swing, they have struggled to avoid the sweet spot on his bat.
This is great news. It would be very concerning if the 23-year-old was striking out so much and not making meaningful contact. However, that has not been the case.
Once Bart combines his knack for making loud contact with a better launch angle, that is when the extra-base hits will start to pile up.
The Georgia Tech product is still swimming in small sample waters of only 66 plate appearances, but there are more reasons to be encouraged than discouraged. Bart’s major league career is only just beginning, but the SF Giants have got to like what they are seeing from the young catcher.