Even though it’s one game of 162, it was a surprise.
Joey Bart, one of the most talked about players in Giants camp this season, did not make the Opening Day lineup vs. the Yankees on Thursday. Instead, Gabe Kapler elected to go with veteran Roberto Perez, electing for a steady hand behind the dish to open the season.
The Giants were very public during spring training that the catching position was up for grabs, and that the lack of roster security would motivate Bart into better and more consistent performances. While there were flashes both at the plate and behind the dish in Arizona, that didn’t exactly happen. Bart slashed .214/.333/.393 in the Cactus League. Not bad, but also not head turning. It was better than Bart did in the big leagues last season (.215/.296/.364) but not good enough to win the job.
So where does Bart stand now? Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joined Tolbert & Copes after the game and broke down the situation. First, he said that Perez getting the start was more about rewarding the veteran than an indictment of the youngster.
“I think as much as anything it was a nod to Roberto Perez, who came in on a non-roster deal,” Zaidi said. “Really accomplished catcher, won a couple Gold Glove awards and did a really nice job in camp.”
Then Zaidi revealed that Bart still needs to improve before the club is comfortable giving him an every day job.
“We talked about how we want Joey to take a step forward. I think for us to be a playoff team we need that,” Zaidi said. “Competition at that spot is good. Blake Sabol’s going to mix in, Roberto Perez is going to mix in. There’s one school of thought where you give the guy the job and let him run with it. This is maybe the other school where we have other good options and we want somebody to take the reigns and be the guy. We’re certainly hoping Joey can accomplish that and he’ll definitely be getting his opportunities.
“When you think about what Joey Bart can be, you think about a guy hitting fifth or sixth in the order, not eighth or ninth as he has for us. That’s kind of the difference. He’s got power now. We’ve seen the power from him. It’s the difference between being a .280 – .290 on base guy and hitting .210 – .220 [batting average] vs. hitting .250 – .260 and getting .350 on base.”
As a former No. 2 overall pick in 2018, the spotlight and pressure are on Bart more than they would be for other prospects. He also happens to be trying to follow in the footsteps of Buster Posey, which only ramps up the stakes.
“We’ve told Joey that for us to go where we want to go as a team, we need to see some improvements for him,” Zaidi continued. “At times I feel like it’s unfair, like there’s too much of the spotlight on him. We need a lot of guys to carry their weight. He’s a young player, last year was his first full year. A lot of guys get better with a little time under their belt. That’s the same thing with him.
“If he does the same thing he did last year it’s going to compel us to look for other options. I know he feels there’s room for improvement and so do we…We want him to force his way higher in the order. When you have a catcher in the middle of the order, we saw with Buster all those years, you really have something, and a huge advantage in the league.”
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