SF Giants general manager Scott Harris joined the MLB Network on Tuesday and indicated that catching prospect Joey Bart will likely begin next season in the minors.
Bart, who was originally drafted by the Giants with the second overall pick in 2018, debuted with the club in 2020. However, he slashed just .233/.288/.320 (69 OPS+) with five doubles, two triples, no home runs, and seven RBI in 111 plate appearances. This included a 2.7 percent walk rate against a 36.9 percent strikeout rate, so he struggled to make contact.
While Bart generated a solid 89 percent average exit velocity, he had a tough time lifting the ball as he registered a ground ball in 51.6 percent of his batted ball events.
As a team, Giants catchers produced a paltry .593 OPS, and Bart was part of that struggle, but his promotion was mildly forced to get more offensive production from the catcher position. After all, the Georgia Tech product had collected just 87 plate appearances above Single-A, so his struggles were understandable.
Perhaps, the more concerning aspect of Bart’s game was his work behind the plate. He did not manage the running game well as he nabbed just 18 percent (league average is 24 percent) of would-be base stealers. On top of this, his pitch-framing was rated as average.
He will not be the last rookie to struggle right out the gates, and his 2020 season could be a positive experience in his career. For players like Bart, it is interesting to see how they respond to adversity. That said, his struggles could be chalked up as just needing more development time and the Giants appear motivated to give him that extra time.
At some point soon, San Francisco will want Bart to take over at catcher. Posey has one year remaining on his contract with a $3 million buyout for 2022, and Casali is under team control for one more season after this one.
The Giants will have a decision to make at Posey, but the difficulty of that decision will be eased if Bart is ready to become the full-time backstop. This might be looking too far into the future, but San Francisco wants to give Bart the coaching and development he needs to get him ready for that.