The SF Giants are prepared to go with Joey Bart and Blake Sabol as their two top catchers in 2023. The latter is extremely limited in terms of experience, but is he making a case to stick with the club through the rest of the year?
Is Blake Sabol staking his case to stay with the SF Giants?
The short answer is yes. The Giants have pretty much lost all of their catching depth that they began the season with as both Austin Wynns and Gary Sánchez have departed the organization, whereas Roberto Pérez underwent season-ending surgery.
The options have dried up quickly, which is a bit concerning if either Bart or Sabol land on the injured list. Behind these two are Patrick Bailey and Ricardo Genovés. Bailey could reach Oracle Park before the end of the season, but Genovés is likely the emergency option in the interim in case the top two options hit the shelf. If I had to guess, I would think that the front office does not want to put Bailey in the same situation they did when Bart was promoted in 2020.
This is why Sabol's role on the 2023 roster has become increasingly important. As a Rule 5 pick, his hold on a roster spot is pretty much always in jeopardy, but the circumstances have changed where the Giants need him to stake his claim. And, to his credit, he has been doing just that.
When the Giants traded for Sabol with the Cincinnati Reds, he had just 94 games of pro experience behind the plate and 101 total plate appearances in Triple-A. It was a tall order for him to not only learn the nuances of the position on the fly, but to adjust to major league pitching as well.
Learning the position was always going to come with growing pains. The Giants expected that. To Sabol's credit, he has proven to be one of the more athletic players on a veteran-heavy roster.
Some of those growing pains come in the form of an unusually high number of catcher's interference calls. The emphasis on pitch framing has become paramount with today's catcher. In an attempt to steal a strike or two, catchers get very close to the hitter to frame the position. For the 25-year-old, this has led to a lot of catcher's interference calls.
The effort has, to a degree, worked for Sabol as he has graded out favorably in terms of pitch framing. His blocking and throwing need to improve, but framing is so important to teams in today's game.
It is not his work behind the plate that has stood out, but rather, it is his hitting. After being off for nearly a week, Sabol tallied three hits in Sunday's 7-3 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers. Two of those hits had an exit velocity of over 100 MPH. That is an encouraging sign.
Overall, the left-handed bat has slashed .264/.312/.500 with five home runs, 11 RBI, and 10 runs in 77 plate appearances. His five homers is tied for third place for a team that has been surprisingly strong in the home run category to start the year.
Sabol is benefitting from a .400 BABIP, which will come back down to earth. However, when he does make contact, he has recorded a 92.9 MPH exit velocity and 13.5-percent barrel rate. These are strong numbers.
Of course, making contact has been an issue for the lefty bat in the early going. Sabol has tallied a 41.5-percent strikeout rate, which is something that does need to come down. It has been slowly trending in the right direction, but generally 30 percent is a threshold where it is tough to generate value offensively if it is any higher than that.
Sabol has made a positive first impression. He has struggled a bit defensively, but the front office is committed to allowing him to continue to develop. The young catcher has held his own against major league pitching and that is often the toughest task for any prospect, especially a Rule 5 pick.