The time has finally come. The most exciting San Francisco Giants prospect in recent memory will make his Major League debut Thursday night at Oracle Park.
Joey Bart is the Giants top overall prospect, and the 15th-overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
The apparent successor to Buster Posey, the future face of the franchise, whatever you want to call him, is probably accurate. The catching prospect was drafted in 2018 and worked his way quickly through a system thirsty for the next great backstop.
In the Giants first spring training session in March, there was chatter regarding Bart making the Opening Day roster. Most around the game speculated that he would begin the season in Triple-A Sacramento.
Fast-forward to Summer Camp in July. Bart continued to explode on to the scene, and teammates up and down the roster, and in all levels of the organization were petitioning for Bart to be brought up to the major league squad.
So why now? Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi spoke about the decision, and what the organization has seen from their top prospect as of late:
“The timing of this was always going to be the type of situation where we continued to gather information and get to a consensus as a group, between the people in Sacramento who were watching him every day, and our group in the front office, thinking about how he might fit, and our past experiences with young players. The reports from Sacramento have been really good. He worked on various aspects of his game. Probably the thing that has been most impressive has been his continued focus on at-bat quality, he did a good job of that, and consistently had good at-bats on a day in and day out basis.”
Nevertheless, the Giants remained consistent with their evaluation of Bart. From the get-go, they said he needed more time, but they anticipated his arrival sometime in the 2020 season after beginning the year in Sacramento.
Bart spoke to the media before Thursday night’s game. He talked about his development this year, and where he’s grown as a player since being sent to the alternate site in Sacramento:
“I think my game has definitely grown, from spring training to summer camp, to Sacramento. Definitely growing and learning on the defensive side of the game, as well as making some tweaks with what i was doing at the plate early in Spring Training. Moving down the stretch, we’ve been working defensively, trying to work with pitchers, get synced-up with guys, make guys feel comfortable, make guys want to throw to me. That’s really what’s important to me.”
Bart received the good news late Wednesday night. He discussed how that conversation went:
“It was pretty late last night, so I was kind of dozing off and getting towards heading to sleep. Farhan [Zaidi] gave me a shout and filled me in with the good news. It was unbelievable, I was shaking for, it seemed like, 30 minutes. I’m just really really blessed to be here and be healthy, and to move forward with the team.”
If you were to ask anyone before the season started, what Bart’s promotion would have meant for the team, most would anticipate that it would provide the Giants struggling offense with a spark. That is not the case, as the Giants offense has held their own very nicely.
The team’s two previous starting catchers, Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp, have shown flashes but ultimately have struggled at the major league level. Bart’s offensive and defensive ability can plug what has been a glaring hole this season for the Giants.
Bart is thought of as a very complete catcher, good defensively, and even better with the bat, just like Posey. Zaidi spoke candidly, saying that Bart’s offensive ability was what he is looking forward to the most:
“I would say for me, it’s the offensive skills just because the defense is really good, but he’s the type of guy who gets your attention when he has a bat in his hand. We saw it a lot back in February and March in Spring Training, we saw it a lot in camp as well, it’s just exciting seeing him in the batters box. The catching tools, the catching performance, we’ve seen. This is really going to be the first time he’s going to be facing the highest caliber pitching in the most competitive environment in baseball on a day-in, day-out basis. I think that’s going to be the most exciting part.”
With the Giants offense clicking, that should relieve pressure off Bart to perform right away. As things stand right now, the Giants find themselves in last place in the division with a 10-16 record, but still within striking distance to make a run at one of the final playoff spots.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler discussed the possibility of Bart acting as a spark plug for this team moving forward:
“It feels like just the right time. I think it’s got a chance to give a boost to the clubhouse, it’s certainly demonstrates that we’re trying to win, and that we can win and try and develop simultaneously. I think every rep Joey gets this year is important to his long term development, and important for his ability to have success over the course of his career. At the same time, i think Joey gives us a really good chance to win.”
What does Bart’s promotion mean for the immediate future at the catcher position? Both Zaidi and Kapler mentioned that they expect Bart to catch most of the games moving forward, with Tromp mixed in occasionally.
Penciled in as the starting catcher for Kevin Gausman against the Los Angeles Angels, Bart will bat sixth in his major league debut.