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Joey Bart not guaranteed anything as Giants keep catcher options open



© Orlando Ramirez | 2022 Oct 3

Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and presumed heir to Buster Posey, appears to have lost the benefit of the doubt within the Giants organization.

Bart, 26, will compete for playing time and a roster spot this spring training after an uneven 2022 season. Manager Gabe Kapler and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi sat the catcher down Wednesday, as pitchers and catchers reported, to inform him of their view on the situation, they told reporters in Arizona.

The news mirrors what Kapler had already said at the team’s recent Fan Fest.

“A completely open competition,” Kapler told reporters, via The Athletic, in Arizona. “Four catchers, all of them with an equal opportunity to earn both playing time and roster spots.”

The four backstops in question will be Bart, Rule 5 Draft pick Blake Sabol, and non-roster invitees Austin Wynns and Roberto Pérez. The question marks abound speak volumes to the organization’s opinion of Bart.

Andy Thomas was also invited to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee, the Giants announced Thursday, but hasn’t caught above the High-A level.

Wynns was initially brought in last year as a stopgap solution, and the Giants designated him for assignment this winter before re-signing him to a minor league deal. Sabol is a converted outfielder who has never caught a big-league game. Pérez, a two-time Gold Glove winner, has only played 62 games in the past two seasons due to injuries.

Then there’s Bart, the heralded prospect suddenly out of the honeymoon stage.

“I think when you’re talking about prospects transitioning to become Major Leaguers, they have this period of runway,” Kapler said, via MLB.com. “Any prospect that comes to the big leagues, the organization wants to give them a chance to perform and to succeed. At a certain point, that player has less of that runway and he’s more just competing, like others are in a Major League camp. That’s where we are with Joey. He’s had some moments of performance at the Major League level. I don’t think the body of his career has earned a surefire inside track to the No. 1 catching job. The only way that happens is through really earning it and making it abundantly clear he should be our starting catcher. But nothing can be given to anybody right now in that regard.” 

Bart was supposed to take the full-time No. 1 catcher job last year. Instead, he struck out at alarming rates and got sent down to Sacramento midseason for a mental reset and swing change. He returned and put together the best month of his career in August (.328 average and .888 OPS) but plummeted in September.

Bart showed poise in the clubhouse throughout the year despite his on-field struggles and prided himself on not bringing his trouble at the plate with him to the squat. He grew as a game-caller and defender, but Wynns nevertheless superseded him as ace Carlos Rodón’s preferred battery mate by the end of the season.

Arm strength is one of Bart’s best attributes, but still caught just 21% of runners stealing — below league average. Combined with his 38.5% strikeout rate, third-worst among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, and Bart’s production can be easily questioned.

“Joey’s in a great frame of mind,” Zaidi told reporters, via The Athletic. “He’s formed a lot of relationships on our team with our players and coaching staff. He knows the areas he has to work on. For someone with a draft pedigree, it’s very easy to focus on (areas of) improvement. But it’s also about appreciating the progress he’s made and the attitude he has to show what he can do right now.”