Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Giants 2018 First Round Draft Pick: Joey Bart, C

The Giants selected Georgia Tech's Joey Bart, C, with their first round draft pick of 2018, second overall.

ogc thoughts

I totally got it wrong (as usual), I really thought the Giants would go for a pitcher, either Liberatore or Singer, because most rankings had them higher than Bart.  But I missed a lot of signals that he would be of interest to the Giants.  I definitely overthought it and threw in some confirmation bias, to boot.  Maybe even some non-confirmation bias:  he looked like such an obvious choice that he just looked suspect, because of that.  So I'll have to tuck my tail between my legs and try to learn from this, but as a forecaster, all I can do is try to get better and move forward.

Missing His Great Defense

Mostly, though, I didn't see all the talk about how good Bart is defensively.  I did see the articles noting that his defense was good, and that he has a good arm, and that he's one of the very few amateur catchers who is allowed to call the pitches, all very good points.  But after Posey, I didn't think the Giants would want good, they would want best.  And probably where I got turned off was when I saw one analyst question whether he can stick at catcher or not, and that turned me off.

And look at the analyst quotes I collect down below.  The MLB Pipeline profile, that I quoted below:  all they noted was that he has a good arm and that he'll stick at the catching position.  Nothing about his excellence behind the plate.  Fangraphs was better, noting that he's advanced defensively, and could rise fast because of that, but I got no sense of that he was extraordinarily good, like I did with Posey, whom I saw mention of Gold Glove defense.  In the Baseball America article, they mention his defensive prowess, but I had seen that previously with Jackson Williams, and he never got anywhere in his pro career, though obviously huge difference between second pick and 30+ pick.  None of these analysts would say anything other than he was good or, at best, advanced.

That, and that most of the top draft analysts had ranked Bart outside of the top players available.  Baseball America ranked him 5th, his highest ranking.  MLB Pipeline had him 6th.  Perfect Games ranked him 7th.  And Keith Law had him 10th.  I know most of the reports I've seen said that the next tier of players could be jumbled randomly and still relevant, but for these top experts to uniformly place him in the back half of the next tier, seemed like he's missing something, especially since all the commentary was about how there was no mix up top as to the first tier, there was only one, MIze, who was a sure thing.

This article by Baseball America in early April, notes his defense, as well as other qualities that Giants look for (work ethic; high baseball IQ; Cape Cod).  He was compared favorably with two catchers who came before him at Georgia Tech, Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters.  In addition, he has been picking the brains of Wieters, who still works out at Georgia Tech during the off-season.  But while all of that is nice, I did not get the sense that he was that great at defense, just good, and I will admit to being spoiled by Buster.

Also, nice article by Baggarly of The Athletic on Bart (subscription needed; but well worth it to get Baggarly; if you get on their mailing list, they sometimes send discount offers, as well).   Apparently the Giants had been stalking him for a while now.  And Barr, when interviewed, noted the usual baseball bromide:  draft the best player available, no matter what.  When asked to compare, all he would cop to was interesting:  I don't know, maybe my smile is bigger?

Most importantly, he's up for a number of prestigious awards that would have swayed me in being more interested in him being drafted:  finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top collegiate catcher (of course); Golden Spike semi-finalist, given by USA Baseball, which has honored the top amateur baseball player in the nation with this award for over 40 years now, past winners include Will Clark (first time I heard of the award) and Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, also Jason Varitek; Dick Howser semi-finalist, given to the top collegiate player.  Baggs noted that Posey won all three awards.  He also was named a first team All-American by both Baseball America and collegiate baseball.  This is where I should have done more research, as I would have given more credence to the defensive skills noted.

Plus, had I see the slide that showed up on the MLB Draft Show, that showed Buster Posey as the best comp for Bart, I probably would have swing my opinion his way, as far as percentages go, though it would have still been a toss up between him and the pitchers, in my mind.  But who couldn't use another Buster Posey?  And that same slide noted that he has superstar potential, which none of the other sources I referred to said.  Again, who couldn't use another superstar?

Prospect Quality

The main thing I was looking for was basically this:  how elite Bart could be.  One of the factors that nobody talks about with the draft and prospect ranking is that the quantity and quality of the players up top can be very different year to year.  Thus, just because he's good, or even the best in this season, it does not give me any comparison to prior seasons, I have no idea if the depth was so bad this season that he got selected, for example. 

So I was trying to account for that, since I don't have any scouting skills to see how good Bart is defensively, I can only rely on others' observations.  And, of course his coaches will say good things about his defense, so I had to discount that. 

I was also swayed by all the writing I saw that seemed to me to be a lot of damning by faint praise.  Being able to stick behind the plate is not that impressive to me, other than it means that we at least have a catcher to replace Posey.  But the Giants have traditionally gone after defensive prowess behind the plate.  Before Posey, there was Bengie Molina and Mike Matheny, two good catchers known for their defense.

And as good a hitter as he was in college, I've seen too many good hitters in college drafted who fail, Gary Brown being the main example here.  And all the talk about his hit tool being questionable made me wonder how good he is as a prospect, if he can't hit, as I've seen so many other prospects who have good qualities otherwise flame out because they can't hit enough.  Power is not always enough to get such a player into the majors, though that is a quality that catchers often can supply offensively, since many don't have the hit tool. 

Happy with Bart Selection

Now that I know more of the details, I love the pick of Bart now.  Following is information I found on how analysts thought of Bart.

I'll first start out with this tweet about his stats improvement by season:
Freshman: .299/.351/.382, .733 OPS, 1 HR
Sophomore: .296/.370/.575, .945 OPS, 13 HR
Junior: .359/.471/.632, 1.103 OPS, 16 HR
The good news is that he was a hitter from the beginning, hitting .299 as a freshman, then added power in his sophomore year (ISO rose from 83 to 279), and then improved his hitting (.296 to .359), walks (ISO-OBP from 74 to 112), and power (SLG from .575 to .632; though that is really more from his improved hitting) in his junior year.   But, I had seen similar improvement by Gary Brown, year over year, from freshman to sophomore to junior, and I keep on reading about how analysts were not sure about his hit tool, though not his power tool.  So this is nice, but not a big selling point for me.

MLB Pipeline
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 30 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55 
Bart's power potential could have gotten him selected in the first five rounds of the Draft after he led Buford High to the 2015 Georgia 4-A state championship, but he dropped to the Rays in the 27th round because he was committed to Georgia Tech. His development at the plate and improvement behind it has him positioned as the top college catcher available in 2018. The Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and defensive player of the year, he's poised to join Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters as Yellow Jackets backstops popped in the first round, and he's even been linked to the Giants as a possible No. 2 overall pick. 
Bart's bat speed, strength and leverage give him power to all fields from the right side of the plate. He has the swing and the feel to hit for a solid average, and he has made huge strides with his plate discipline this spring. He has enough natural pop that he doesn't need to sell out for home runs, and he's not falling into that trap as much as he did in the past. 
There were questions about Bart's long-term catching ability when he arrived at Georgia Tech, but he has cleaned up his receiving enough that there no longer are doubts that he'll stay behind the plate. His strong arm never has been in question and he threw out 40 percent of basestealers in his first two college seasons. Though he's a well-below-average runner, he's relatively athletic for a catcher.
I read this profile, and it did not really stress his defensive abilities, which I saw all over the place after he was selected.  Being good enough to stick as a catcher is nice but not great.  And I would note that Sandoval was noted as relatively athletic for a catcher as well. 

Bart has big raw power and arm strength along with elite makeup/intangibles and above average defense despite his size, but has some issues with contact. 
Full Report 
Bart was a known high school prospect in the Atlanta suburbs and, though a few teams nearly met it, his price tag pushed him to Tech where he's grown into one of this draft's top talents. He has elite feel for the position, projecting as an impact defender with a 65-grade arm despite being bigger than most good defensive ctachers. He also does advance work for every game, calls area scouts for gameplan input, and is possibly the only catcher at a major program that calls his own games. Scouts rave about his makeup. 
Offensively, Bart has huge power and has hit some tape measure shots, including a ball that went over the football facility roof in left field at Georgia Tech and still hasn’t been found. He isn’t the most selective hitter and doesn’t have the loosest swing in the class, but he has some feel for the bat head and doesn’t have trouble with velocity. His power and fly-ball based approach along with these issues mean he could be a 40 or 45 bat with about an average walk rate and anywhere from 50 to 60 game power. Some of his strikeouts this year were a result of getting pitched around. He's seen a lot of off-speed pitches and has altered his approach to hit what he was facing, which likely won’t be a big issue in pro ball. 
Since Bart is so advanced defensively, some scouts have speculated that he’ll go straight to High-A and could debut in the big leagues in late 2019. This could make him one of those prospects that gets to the big leagues before the holes to his offensive game have been closed because he's so good at everything else. The Giants have been all over Bart all spring and are expected to take him 2nd overall, but he's also a candidate to go 1st if Mize's medical or bonus demands become problematic.
I probably should have read this report, might have changed my mind.  They actually note that he projects as an impact defender.   But the other reports had already biased my thinking.  That's a lesson for the future.

And the Giants love players who scouts rave about their makeup.  This farm system path is similar to Posey's, where he started with San Jose, went to AFL to work on catching, his first pro season.  And like how the Giants helped Belt close up his holes, maybe they can do their magic with Bart as well.

Fangraphs already ranks Bart 60th among all prospects, and that puts him about 60 spots ahead of where Heliot Ramos is, meaning that they now view him as the Top Giants prospect in their farm system, by far.

Future Scenarios

Of course, a big topic of discussion is what happens to Posey once Bart is ready.   Posey reached the majors a year and a few months after he was drafted, and became the starter a little before two years after he was drafted.   That's a relatively fast ascent to the majors.   And I would attribute that to his abilities with the bat, as he was still unfinished as a catcher. 

Prospects can take up to 6 years to reach the majors sometimes.  But top picks like Bart, probably closer to 2-4 year range.  And that seems to work for where Posey is in his career. 

Posey is already in 31 YO season.  As I've been noting for the past year or two, his framing abilities took a plunge.  And as I researched other top catchers in framing, generally they do really well for years, but then sometime in their early 30's, they lose that touch, falling to average or worse.  So the Giants were probably already thinking about replacing him.  Bart being available just seems to be fate, based on the timing of Posey's decline as a catcher.

The Fangraphs profile notes that Bart's good enough to rise quickly just due to defensive ability.  So I think the Giants are going to be aggressive with Bart, the same they were with Posey.  So I can see him rising to the Giants by mid-2020, at the latest.  And Posey is signed to 2021, with an big option for 2022, when he'll be 35 YO, so he'll be around for a year or two to help with the transition. 

But unlike Posey, they will not dump him like they did Molina, when they promote Bart.  I see them sharing the catching duties, with Bart as more than a backup, but not quite the starter, as he apprentice under Posey and learn the ways of the master.   Posey will probably still be a great hitter, and without the punishment his body gets playing full-time, perhaps some of his power will return, as he catches less games and play other positions.  In any case, they will probably share the starting job for a year or two.

What I'm hoping is that Posey is willing to transition to a super-utility role off the bench.  He was able to play every position in college, maybe he can play a handful in the majors.  He would be our backup catcher, catching 40-60 games per year, plus be the backup at 1B and 3B, as well.  So roughly out of 6 games per week, he catches about 2, plus take starts at 1B and 3B, for four starts per week, which works out to roughly 105-110 starts per year.  Add in some starts in LF, plus some DH, and that gets him to 120 starts.  Plus, he'll be a lethal weapon from off the bench.  Plus, should we make it to the World Series again, the perfect DH. 

Another way to go is to shift him to starting at 1B, while moving Belt to LF.  I have no doubt that Posey could become good enough defensively at 1B if he starts there.  Belt, as well, in LF, as he was an outfield as an amateur, though not to how well he played 1B, so we'll take that defensive hit.   This would probably mean that Shaw becomes trade bait, while Williamson shifts to RF.  This would also mean that the Giants most likely will not re-sign McCutchen for beyond 2018 (already lower odds since we got Williamson, Duggar, Shaw, and Slater, but the Giants do love their established veterans).  So this scenario would require more changes to our roster. 

A third possibility is to really shift things around by starting Posey at 3B, shift Longoria to 1B (his defense at thirdbase has been in decline for many years now, 2017 notwithstanding), Belt to LF, and Williamson to RF.  Again, that means Shaw is trade bait, as he again has no starting position in this rendition of musical chairs. 

Of course, another option here might be trading Longoria.  His contract will roughly work out to $12M per season, and with one less year on the contract, another team might be willing to take that on (with some Giants cash, but that's the cash the Rays gave them).   His bat is still looking very attractive, even if his defense isn't.  Some teams could be okay with that trade off, depending on their situation. 

In any case, it is good to have an option like Bart, as well as Posey, in building your roster.   Bart appears to be a very good defensive catcher, at least more advanced than Posey was when he was drafted (remember the worries we fans had when he struggled mightily with blocking pitches in the dirt when he was in the AFL?  Seems so long ago now).   He will earn the starting position over time as he learns to hit in the majors, and learns Posey's trick of the trade in being an advanced defensive catcher.  Posey will pass the baton to him, and start looking at another starting role with the team.  Bochy and his team of hitting coaches will work with Bart to help him figure out MLB pitching and hitting, just like they did with Belt. 


  1. Sandoval had everything you needed to be a very good catcher, except his head. Unfortunately, once you get past acceptable athleticism, head is the most important attribute of a catcher's game.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah, his head was always the sticking point. As we saw with his implosion once the adults were not in the room with him, when he left to go to Boston, that hole in the male's brain that is supposed to fill up by mid-20's, was a bit delayed with Pablo, and his career went into the toilet.

      So, you read a lot: what do you think of Bart's head? He seems advanced to me, after reading all of the above research, very mature, having the high baseball IQ the Giants love. Honestly, never thought calling your pitches was that advanced a tool, just because the catcher isn't allowed doesn't mean he can't do it, I think that aligns more with how much of a micro-manager the manager wants to be (and I would assume, a vast majority of them are). To me, this means more that this coach is advanced, more than Bart is advanced. Kind of like how some pitchers don't learn breaking pitches until late, while other start early. With practice, the late ones catch up and perhaps surpass (like Bumgarner).

    2. If the reports are true I think he could be the second best catcher in Giants' history (modern era baseball). I certainly won't put him over Posey. Posey is already one of the Top-10 catchers (through 2016) of the modern era.

      By I second best because I think he has that talent. I sort of remember Haller, who was a 2x All Star, but really just by reputation as he was winding down when I started rooting for the Giants. The next best (after Haller) during the modern era was Bob Brenly who was the best (long term) catcher we had from the late 1960s through Posey being called up.

      And I think he'll be better than Brenley (a 1x All-Star and very erratic at the plate). Or the declining, last-hurrah of Benito Santiago who was a great catcher for the Padres and even a 1X All-Star for us, but was in decline defensively.

    3. I agree with your assessment, based on what I've read about Bart since the pick.

      No love for Dick Dietz? I liked him way back when, and looking at his career stats, he was our main catcher for 4 years, got AS one year, hit really well.

      Can't speak to his defense though, nor of Brenly. But per BB-Ref, Brenly did look to be the better catcher, by a good margin, I think. So, I guess Brenly>Dietz is right.

      Also, no mention of Molina? His bat wasn't as good, but he was great behind the plate for us defensively, per BB-Ref, even in his last partial season for us. But hard to balance offense and defense in valuing players.

      Haller I know nothing of, other than he was the GM when the Giants passed on signing Barry Bonds. Per BB-Ref, he was a good hitter as well as good defensively, so I'll agree with you on him being second best.

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. KNBR had a number of interviews with front office personnel to discuss Joey Bart.


    “He’s a big strong catcher, right handed hitter who we see as a plus defensive catcher that’ll have plus power and have a chance to hit in the middle of the lineup,” Barr said. “Right when you lay eyes on Joey Bart you see he is someone who is an athletic catcher, who moves. He’s quick, he’s athletic. When he takes infield an outfield and you see him throw you see the ball just jump out of his hand. You realize you’re dealing with someone that has a chance to be a premium defensive player behind home plate.

    “When he comes up to the plate you get excited because there’s a possibility of every single at bat that he has that he may hit a ball as far as you can see.”


    “How long for him Bob before he comes up?” Gary asked. “When you draft a guy number one in this day in age what does that mean?”

    “You know two, three years in the minors is probably reasonable,” Evans responded. “This being his first year it won’t work out to be a full year, only work out to be a half a year. We will be off in time, to bring catchers out of the draft to big league camp his first camp. So we will see him in big league camp most likely, health provided.”

    Bart, a junior out of Georgia Tech, is the highest draft pick the Giants have made in over three decades. The 6’3 catcher was batting .359 with 79 hits this past year for the Yellow Jackets.


    Sabean also shared his thoughts on Bart. My best try at notes, not full transcription. ACC POTY. Complete package, middle order presence. Meeting at AT&T went great, saw his skills, very fortunate. He's very advanced because has size, strength, athletic ability. Big frame, blocks plate well, flexible, frames, throws with best in minors in accuracy. Power to gaps to do damage. But not finished product. Obstacles include adapting to wood bad, rigors of playing 6-7 games per week. Good foundation with calling pitches, freed him to focus on bat, very uncommon combo.

    Can't draft for organizational need, MLB draft is the biggest acid test in sports. But did focus on advanced/college amateurs since they were drafting early in the rounds, tried to stick to the draft board.

    Also others.

    Hjelle: 3 pitch starter that John Barr is high on. Uncommon frame due to 6'11" but he has uncommon athleticism as he pitches like 6' 5", throwing with an uncommon angle, and the physics of throwing downhill.

    Wong: 4 pitches, was a reliever in the Cape, see him as either starting pitcher or late reliever.

    Rivera: written up due to college coach, second coming of Kimbrel, good fast ball, good breaking ball, might be the best in the draft.

    Winn: Junior college success as SP and RP.

    All have size, strength, athletic ability, they all check those boxes.

    Also talked about Giants situation. Said Suarez reminded him of Rueter, because of his confidence in this pitches, unafraid to throw strikes, very interesting.

    1. From Barr interview, not full transcript, tried my best to get his full comments:

      2018 Draft: strength was pitching. Starts after the 2017 draft. Lots of chance to find quality pitchers available, depth, plus some separation up top. Strong draft class overall. Was not sure who the Tigers pick, Mize, Bart, Singer.

      #2 pick: start with following 10 prospects, and winnowed down to 5 guys, then picked Bart.

      Bart: Advanced at calling games, helps in development defensively, feel for game. Scout Luke Murton/Morton went to Georgia Tech too, had contacts at GT, so the Giants got good inside look at Bart's makeup, competitiveness, See how he handles the game, and it was all positive. They started following him after he played in Cape after freshman year. Big strong RHH; plus defensive C; middle lineup with plus power. He's athletic, moves well behind plate, quick, when he throws, see ball jump out, premium defensive catcher. And with every AB, ball could go out, far. What jumps out is his power, athleticism, arm strength, handling of pitchers. Probably start out in AZ once signed, then S-K, then see where he goes from there, where he ends is what matters. Confident Giants will sign him soon. Rare talent mix at C.

      Draft: 35 college players, that's how the board fell, signability hurts HS, added a lot of pitching depth.

    2. Barr on other picks:

      Hjelle: SCC POTY, competitive mindset, moves well, strike thrower, see as SP with room to fill out, so projection left. SCC starters are very tough, top in nation.

      Wong: saw last year then as RP in Cape Cod. Good arm, live fastball, hard breaking ball. Was consistent as SP this year, see as SP.

      Rivera: drafted last year, but went back because he wanted more. Made nice progress, cleaned up his delivery. Plus fastball, hard breaking curveball.

      Winn: also drafted before, but unable to sign. He's multi-sport athlete, good athlete, moves fluidly. SP with 4-pitch mix.

      Hilson: HS OF, only 17 YO so younger, he is an excellent plus-athlete, with plus plus speed, and power in bat, should stay in CF.

      Mora: HS SS, defense is ahead of offense, once his frame is stronger, that should translate him into a contact hitter with line drive power to gaps.



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