Catcher is probably the biggest roster mystery as the SF Giants head into the winter. They clearly need help with the starting rotation, the outfield, and the infield. However, the plan at catcher remains a question mark.
What do the SF Giants do at catcher for 2023?
The front office was not asked about catcher in the postmortem press conference, so it was never addressed. Presumably, they will begin the year with Joey Bart behind the plate, but is that the right move?
At times, it looked like the power-hitting catcher was ready to take the next step in his development. Then, there were times where Bart struggled badly at the plate.
Overall, it was a mixed bag of a year for the 25-year-old catcher. He slashed .215/.296/.364 (86 OPS+) with 11 home runs, 25 RBI, and 34 runs in 291 plate appearances. This includes an 8.9 percent walk rate against a very high 38.5 percent strikeout rate. Strikeouts are going to be part of Bart's game, so it is important that he does damage when he makes contact.
Bart struggled early in the year but went to Sacramento and refined his approach at the plate. This proved to pay dividends as he posted an .803 OPS in 120 plate appearances after he was recalled midway through the 2022 season. That said, he slumped to a .480 OPS in the final month of the season.
On a different note, Bart's defense did not come around as hoped. According to Baseball Prospectus, the young backstop was worth -2.8 Catcher Defensive Adjustment (CDA). This was hurt by below-average framing. He can certainly improve in that regard.
However, the only Giants catcher in 2022 with a positive CDA was Austin Wynns (3.7 CDA). Wynns' bat came around at the end of the year as he posted a .671 OPS in 177 plate appearances.
The Giants are in a tough position in that they have to improve in a lot of areas and there are likely more questions than answers when it comes to one of the most important positions in the field. They will probably began next year with a Bart-Wynns catching tandem.
There are not many options in free agency. Willson Contreras is the most notable catcher on the market but it does not feel like the Giants are in a position to decisively move off of Bart with a move like this. Outside of Contreras, Jorge Alfaro, Tucker Barnhart, and Omar Narváez are some of the veteran catchers on the market.
None of those three represent obvious upgrades over Wynns or Bart, but Narváez's defense (+5.0 CDA) could hold some appeal as teams are willing to overlook subpar offense if the catcher is a plus on defense.
The Giants are pretty much stuck at the moment at catcher. Bart showed some growth in 2022, but there were some concerns as well. There are not many opportunities to add a productive backup catcher, so the former top pick will see a lot of playing time in 2023 with Wynns penciled in to see time as the backup.