One of the determining factors of which catchers the Giants decide to carry on their roster — between Joey Bart, Austin Wynns, Blake Sabol and Roberto Pérez — will be how well they can hold up as a defender behind the plate.
With the new roles that are expected to increase the amount of activity on the base paths and put more pressure on pitchers, strong defensive catchers could be more valuable than ever.
Catching defense can also be difficult to evaluate with the eye test, either in-person or on television. There are subtle nuances to framing, unseen skill in working with particular pitchers, and ineffable game-calling instincts that make up the most impressive backstops.
Advanced statistics can sometimes provide more relevant information, then. One metric, blocks above average, shows that Bart, the former No. 2 overall pick fighting to reclaim his starting spot, lags behind.
The stat, released Tuesday by Baseball Savant, is designed to capture a catcher’s ability to prevent wild pitches or passed balls — one of the most important skills, but certainly not the only necessary one.
Bart ranked 63rd out of 66 qualified catchers in 2022 in blocks above average, posting -9 blocks above average. Orioles rookie Adley Rutschman, who has drawn comparisons to Buster Posey, led MLB with 18 blocks above average.
Bart competed for playing time last year with Curt Casali and then Austin Wynns in the second half. Casali, whom San Francisco dealt to Seattle at the trade deadline, graded out with 2 blocks above average. Wynns, who has earned rave reviews from SF’s pitching staff, registered 0, ranking 33rd.
Pérez, a two-time Gold Glove winner, didn’t catch enough to qualify for the leaderboard in 2022. The 34-year-old has dealt with shoulder and hamstring injuries that have limited him to 65 games over the past two seasons.
But since 2020, Pérez recorded 13 blocks above average, as many as Yadier Molina. In that same span, Bart posted -11 — 97th out of 111 catchers.
Bart already has a strong arm, a decent pop time and a big, athletic frame. If he could use his talent to improve little things like blocking balls in the dirt, it could go a long way in his bid for the starting job.