The hometown hero was on the board. As was the top high-school pitcher for an organization lacking in top-end pitching talent. Nearly ready-made college pitchers, too, were still dangling, legitimate options to step into a taxi squad as soon as this (abbreviated) season.
The Giants made “a pretty easy decision,” Farhan Zaidi said, by passing over all of the above, going with yet another catcher for an organization that has one star catcher and another on the rise.
This is where the pitchforks rise, the mobs calling for Turlock’s Tyler Soderstrom, for young Oregon flamethrower Mick Abel, for Oklahoma’s Cade Cavalli. Let the Giants explain why NC State catcher Patrick Bailey is not causing much second-guessing within the organization.
“Simply put, he was in a spot on our board where — we’re in the business of best available player,” amateur scouting director Michael Holmes said in a Zoom news conference Wednesday night, a successful first venture into the new normal. “It was just too good of a talent for us not to be in play on. Everybody that we sent in to see him — despite the fact it was a shorter season — every guy that came out of there felt really good about his ability, both on the offensive and defensive side. And we really think we got a guy that can impact the game on both sides of the baseball. Guys like that, you can never have too many of them in the system.”
Zaidi called on a pair of axioms — you don’t draft for need or “perceived need,” and you can never have too much catching. And he trusted they indeed knew who Bailey is, which cannot be overstated. The Giants and every other team have had past video, Zoom interviews and data gleaned from years gone by to determine the best player and person fit.
Holmes has known Bailey a long while, having lived 15 minutes from where Bailey played high-school ball. He watched him grow “into a real leader” at North Carolina State; saw his skill set “really, really take off”; saw the bat progress tremendously, “and I still think it’s pointing north.”
The Giants could trust Bailey. More safe, less sexy.
Bailey “just had the broadest consensus in our group,” Zaidi said. “Holmesy to the rest of his scouting group to our analytics department, which love the power, patience, defensive skills. It’s a really strong consensus pick for us as an organization, so we were obviously thrilled that he was there.”
If it came as a surprise to the masses, it didn’t to the one whose name was called.
Bailey is a 21-year-old catcher from Greensboro who’s twice played with Team USA, who’s regarded as the top defensive catcher in the draft, who has had a relationship with Holmes since Holmes was with Oakland.
Playing with the Wolfpack, Bailey immediately burst on the scene, slamming 13 home runs as a freshman then 10 more as a sophomore before this weird junior season. He’s straight out of the Zaidi playbook, a plate-disciplined slugger (.411 OBP) with power that has both been shown and teased; they think there’s more in there.
The Giants told him they were looking to take the best available player on their board, and he was pleased that was him.
“I’ve always considered myself a kind of defense-first, defensive-minded catcher. That’s what I pride myself in,” Bailey, who said he grew up a Rangers fan, said on a Zoom call. “And then get into NC State and maturing a little bit my body, I’ve been able to produce a little bit of power.”
Bailey mentioned he has idolized Yadier Molina for most of his life, but it will be the other iconic catcher of the 2010s whom he will soon meet. Buster Posey is still a Giant, still with two years on a deal during which he is the undisputed leader of the team. Joey Bart is a rising Giant, ready to help this season, having been the No. 2-overall pick just two years ago.
You don’t draft for need, everyone around baseball will tell you over and over, and yet there is a logjam coming. Zaidi mentioned the possibility of a universal DH, which will be implemented this year if both sides cooperate, and would make the issue a bit smoother. He also mentioned the fact Bart already has begun to learn another position, having taken reps at first, and he wants all of his players to be flexible. (Bailey said he has not been talked to about moving around, but that talk is coming.)
Bart is a righty slugger, while Bailey is a switch-hitter. You can begin to imagine the sort of visions bouncing around in Giants execs’ heads, of capable catchers who can also play first and third, who can both handle pitchers without getting burned out, who can be shuffled in and out depending on the opposing team’s pitcher.
“The dream scenario is to have two catchers that can impact the game offensively and defensively,” Zaidi said after a pick he hopes will make his dreams come true.