SF Giants prospects: Midseason 2021 rankings
5. Joey Bart, C
Highest Level: MLB (SFG)
Acquired: Draft (2018)
Future-Value Grade: 45+
I was lower on Joey Bart relative to consensus leading up to the 2018 draft and over the past few years. I saw a lot of Mike Zunino in his profile and track record and thus far, he remains on that trajectory. I always saw Bart as a big-league contributor, but elite catchers are hard to come by. Elite power-first catchers are even rarer. Yet, that remains Bart’s only obvious path to stardom.
Bart was thrust into a difficult situation in 2020 when Buster Posey’s opt-out forced him to the big leagues well before he was ready. While the Georgia Tech alum flashed his power potential, he ultimately recorded a meager .609 OPS alongside some noticeable struggles defensively. Neither were too surprising given how unexpectedly he was called up to the majors, but it obviously put a lot of pressure on his Triple-A debut in 2021.
After his second consecutive great performance at big-league spring training, Bart became the primary catcher with the Sacramento River Cats and has performed quite well this season, hitting .311/.374/.519 with 10 home runs in just 53 games played. Defensively, Bart has had a few hiccups but generally rebounded well, throwing out 32% of opposing runners. He looks back on track to become an above-average defender. Still, I dropped him down from a 50-grade because I wanted to see some more significant improvements at the plate.
While Bart’s offensive numbers are very good, the context of the Triple-A West league matters. A notoriously hitter-friendly environment, Bart’s OPS and HR% rank sixth among players with at least 150 plate appearances just among his own teammates. At the same time, his strikeout and walk rates are both well below league average. Bart isn’t old for Triple-A but is close to three years older than Ramos. Questions about his hit tool have followed him since he was an amateur, and I’m still concerned it will impede him from ever generating the power some expect.
If he develops a league-average hit tool, he should be an impact player. However, it may just be a 30-grade tool at this point. A 40-grade hit tool should be enough for him to follow a Zunino-like trajectory, but that’s far from guaranteed.
Bart remains the heir apparent to Posey. With Curt Casali set to be a free agent at the end of the season, it makes perfect sense for Bart to step in as the primary backup while the SF Giants continue keeping Posey on a regimented rest schedule. As the NL likely adopts the designated hitter, that should become an easy way for the Giants to ease Bart into a full-time role. With that said, big-league ready catchers are hard to come by. If the Giants are willing to move Bart in a trade, multiple front offices will be willing to bet on his pedigree.