There will be no Buster Posey this season, and that leaves the Giants in an unfamiliar position. Last week, the face of the franchise officially opted out of the 2020 season.
For nine years straight, the Giants have penciled in Posey’s name on the Opening Day lineup card. In need of a starting and backup catcher, is top prospect Joey Bart be in the mix?
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The 23-year old catching prospect has been the talk of the town since he was drafted in 2018 as the second-overall pick. In the season and a half, Bart has been with the Giants organization, he’s progressed quickly through the minor leagues.
A red-hot spring training in March put him in the conversation for Posey’s backup. Now that Posey has opted out, the Giants will likely be looking for two catchers instead of one. What are Bart’s chances to make the roster, and who is he competing with?
The Giants held another intrasquad game Monday, where Bart knocked in one of the games few runs.
With nine days remaining until Opening Day, Bart’s performance has been over-shadowed by an unfamiliar name.
Non-roster invitee Chadwick Tromp has turned heads quickly with his offensive performance this summer, homering twice in Sunday’s intrasquad game.
You may be asking yourself, “who is Chadwick Tromp?” You’re not alone. Tromp is a 25-year-old catching prospect from the Cincinnati Reds organization. Drafted in 2013, Tromp spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, accumulating over 1,200 at-bats without a promotion to the majors.
He’s one of four catchers that are battling it out for roster spots, including Bart, Tyler Heineman, and Rob Brantly.
Just like Tromp, Heineman is another catcher who has spent most of his career in the minor leagues. Drafted in 2012 by the Houston Astros, Heineman is another non-roster invitee who is battling it out for a spot on the roster. A rarity amongst catchers, Heineman is unique in that he is a switch-hitter.
The common theme here, is that all of these catchers, other than Bart, are journeymen. That goes for Brantly as well, who has a total of 388 at-bats in five seasons at the big league level. The 31-year-old was signed to a minor league deal this offseason.
Between Tromp, Heineman and Brantly, Tromp seems to offer the most upside with this bat. Bart is hands-down the most exciting and talented option, but it doesn’t seem too likely the star prospect makes the final roster.
Monday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler met with the media, and discussed where the team stands in regards to Bart:
“Relative to a lot of the other prospects that we have at camp, Joey is fairly advanced. From a bigger-picture perspective, [Bart has] got a lot of development left. And more reps to develop both behind the plate in calling a game and working with pitchers, and from a plate-appearance perspective. More development will certainly serve Joey well.”
Do Kapler’s comments come as a surprise? They do, but the writing has been on the wall for months now.
With the minor league season completely canceled, where are prospects like Bart supposed to get at-bats in a competitive setting? There are two options: either major league games, or the teams’ alternative camp in Sacramento for players who do not make the roster. No minor league season, paired with Posey opting-out, should have created a more favorable path for Bart.
Unfortunately for the Giants top prospect, President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said back in March that Bart will likely begin in the minor leagues, so Kapler’s comments aren’t that surprising.
Bart is one of many top prospects in camp and is certainly the most major league-ready of them all. Giants third baseman Evan Longoria echoed just that to the media on Monday:
“Joey Bart I think is the closest that we have in terms of breaking through at the big-league level and being an impact player right out of the chute, I know [Bart] is pretty close.”
The Giants have multiple options to choose from at the catcher position, the three journeymen, and the star prospect. The final week and a half of summer camp will be crucial for many position battles, most importantly, who will be calling games behind the dish.