Top catching prospect Patrick Bailey is slated to begin the year in Double-A. After a quietly solid season in 2022 and a nice camp so far, could the 23-year-old be an option for the Giants by the end of this season?
Could the SF Giants see top catching prospect at Oracle Park in 2023?
In general, a lot has to go right for Bailey's development and a lot has to go wrong at catcher for the Giants to make this happen. That said, it is not totally out of the realm of possibility.
The Giants began spring training with an open competition at catcher and that still seems to be the case after signing Gary Sánchez to a minor league deal.
The Giants have a lot of options at catcher including Sánchez, Roberto Pérez, Blake Sabol, and Joey Bart. Austin Wynns and Ricardo Genovés are a couple of experienced options in then upper minors as well. They have a lot of options, but no one is definitively better than the rest at the moment.
If no one grabs hold of the position, it could become a revolving door in 2023. This would create an opportunity for someone like Bailey.
The former first round pick is excellent defensively, which will create an opportunity sooner rather than later. He took home a minor league Gold Glove award at catcher along with fellow prospect Casey Schmitt, who won the award at third base.
The defensive metrics that are available definitely support his case. According to Baseball Prospectus, Bailey was worth +20.4 Catcher Defensive Adjustment (CDA) with framing and throwing being regarded as strengths. He quickly earned a reputation as someone that you should not run on:
There were not many catchers in the minors who posted a better mark than Bailey. Defense is not the issue, but Bailey's bat needs to show improvement. The switch-hitter struggled to the tune of a .587 OPS in 155 plate appearances at High-A in 2021 before being sent down to Low-A. Not exactly what you want to see from a college bat.
However, he returned to High-A and slashed .225/.342/.420 with 12 home runs, 51 RBI, and 49 runs in 325 plate appearances last year. This included a very solid 15.0 percent walk rate against a 22.2 percent strikeout rate. The at-bat quality is sound and consistent.
While Bailey is listed as a switch-hitter, he hits better from the left side as he posted an .851 OPS as a left-handed hitter. Given that the majority of pitchers are right handed, this type of platoon leverage could bode well for Bailey. He will continue to hit from the right side as well for now.
So, the question is, will the Giants see Bailey in 2023. It is unlikely, but if he gets off to a strong start and earns a quick promotion to Triple-A, he will be in the conversation. However, another factor is that he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, meaning that San Francisco will have the decision of whether to protect him from it by adding him to the 40-man.
It is not uncommon for teams to accelerate that deadline a little bit by calling up a player in September that they expected to add anyway. With that deadline looming, the Giants could, in theory, accelerate it by bringing up Bailey before the end of the year if his play warrants it.
It will take a lot for this to happen. Though, importantly, the catching prospect is already one of the better, if not the best, defensive backstops in the organization. If he hits a little bit, it could pave the way to a debut with the Giants before the season ends.