SF Giants’ 2020 first-round pick Patrick Bailey is undoubtedly talented, but he creates a puzzling dynamic
If so, the name of the player appears to fit the crime.
All jokes aside, it’s evident that Farhan Zaidi and the Giants’ front office had their strategy planned out ahead of the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, which occurred Wednesday night.
They knew what the mock drafts had projected for them. They knew where their organizational shortcomings resided. They even knew they’d possessed an elite catching prospect already. Alas, they went with the best player available at pick No. 13.
That was catcher Patrick Bailey, formerly of NC State.
Typically, going after the best player available is an intelligent, sensible strategy. It’s almost always the safe route and it usually pays dividends down the road.
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After all, it’s not often that a team stumbles across a young switch-hitting catcher with a penchant for epic bat flips.
This is especially intriguing given the widely accepted notion across baseball that catchers are known more for their defense and handling of a pitching staff, thus potentially sacrificing offense and the flair that can go with it as a result.
In this case, though, the best player available at the time of the selection wasn’t necessarily the best fit for the team. And there’s something to be said for drafting impact players that will also fill other positions of need down the line.
For instance, consider that only two of the organization’s top-10 prospects as of now are pitchers. While the team has assembled a talented array of young hitters like Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, and Marco Luciano, pitching is essential to the core of a championship team.
Just ask former manager Bruce Bochy when he brought in Madison Bumgarner for a World Series Game 7 relief appearance back in 2014 to clinch a third title in five seasons.
With that in mind, San Francisco missed an opportunity to take “tantalizing” high school pitching prospect Mick Abel, who went to the Philadelphia Phillies at pick No. 15.
Bryce Jarvis from Duke, who posted a 0.67 ERA during a shortened collegiate season and taken by the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks at pick No. 18, was also a possibility.
Imagine what a potential Abel-Bart battery down the line for the orange and black would’ve looked like. That could’ve been the next generation’s Bumgarner-Posey power duo.
Unfortunately, that outcome can no longer exist. The team does still have Joey Bart, though, so let’s shift to him.
Bart was selected second overall by the Giants in 2018, touted to be the heir to catching incumbent and franchise stalwart Buster Posey.
In pre-2020 minor league prospect rankings, Bart was a consensus top-100 prospect in the game, placing as high as 14th on MLB.com’s 2020 Top 100 prospects list.
For what it’s worth, he is ranked as Baseball Prospectus’ 25th best prospect and as Baseball America’s 32nd best. Not to mention, he’s currently the organization’s top-ranked prospect.
Adding to the hype, the former first-round pick raked in the minor leagues in 2019, clocking in with 16 home runs and an .824 OPS over 79 games played between Class A+ San Jose and Class AA Richmond.
Did I mention he also owned the 2019 Arizona Fall League? He did so to the tune of a 1.290 (!) OPS, although that should be taken with a grain of salt since he only played in 10 games.
Nevertheless, it was a clear demonstration of his talent and development on a playing field with notable top prospects from other organizations.
To cap it all off, defensive metrics graded Bart kindly in 2019, speaking to his all-around abilities.
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It doesn’t seem feasible that the Giants would think any less of Bart because they drafted Patrick Bailey, nor should they. Bart has done nothing but produce since getting drafted.
However, it does raise some questions about their plans at the catcher position going forward.
In particular, since it appears that both players have high ceilings and that both could turn out to be quality major leaguers at a position where the quality of player usually lags behind the other spots on the diamond.
If there’s any organization that knows the importance of the catcher position in baseball, it would be the SF Giants.
After all, Buster Posey was arguably the most important piece of the three championship runs the team made in 2010, 2012 and 2014 (though Bumgarner gets an honorable mention).
Perhaps the team could dangle one of Bart or Bailey as future trade bait, knowing full well the assessment of the catcher position in baseball overall is rather bleak. In that case, San Francisco could come out looking shrewd and progressive.
Or perhaps there’s nothing like old-fashioned competition to bring out the best in both prospects, with the better minor league performance resulting in the first call up to the big leagues. Bart has a pretty significant edge there right now, though.
All in all, the Giants have two elite catching prospects, and that’s more than any other organization can say. How well will that turn out for them? Only time will tell.