The 2023 season has not gone as planned for young SF Giants catcher Joey Bart. It feels like the Giants are at a crossroads with him and a decision will need to be made sooner rather than later given that he is approaching a deadline of sorts.
SF Giants approaching important deadline for young catcher
Bart entered the 2023 season with a tenuous hold on the starting catcher job. The front office has indicated that this could be a make-or-break season for the former No. 2 overall pick. Plus, they were quietly active in looking for upgrades at catcher this past offseason.
The Giants had hoped that Bart would show more growth this year but it just has not happened yet and there were whispers prior to this season that they no longer see him as an everyday player.
Despite accumulating just 492 plate appearances across four seasons, it has been a roller coaster of a career for the 26-year-old. And, his future could be in doubt soon enough.
The right-handed bat slashed .231/.286/.295 (61 OPS+) with zero home runs, four RBI, and eight runs in 84 plate appearances before landing on the injured list with a groin strain in May. This included a 25.0 percent strikeout rate, which is a huge improvement over his 35.8 percent career mark. On the surface, it does feel like he has sacrificed power for contact.
On the bright side, his pitch-framing has shown improvement. His 54.1 percent strike rate leads the majors despite not appearing in a game for just over a month.
When he was set to return from the groin strain, the Giants sent him on a rehab assignment to Sacramento. During this assignment, he tallied two hits in 21 Triple-A at-bats.
While the results are not necessarily important during rehab assignments, I think the Giants wanted to see more. As a result and due in part to Patrick Bailey's emergence, Bart was optioned on June 10.
The backstop had already burned two of his three option seasons. The first option came in 2021 when the Giants wanted him to spend an entire year in Triple-A after he was rushed in 2020. He was optioned again last year as he struggled to the tune of a .596 OPS in 108 plate appearances through the first two months of the year.
Those two options are not necessarily as important as this one. The third option year will be exhausted if Bart spends at least 20 days in the minors. The rehab assignment does not count against this threshold, so he is halfway (10 days) toward using his third option year.
What does this mean? It means that Bart could enter 2024 without a minor league option remaining. The Giants seem comfortable with Bailey and Blake Sabol behind the dish. Sabol is lighter in terms of experience, so the Giants may still decide to shift things around.
The deadline is approaching and the Giants are likely watching is closely. Though, with only a .483 OPS in 48 plate appearances in Sacramento, there is just not enough evidence to support recalling him now or in the near future.