It has happened. catching uber-prospect Joey Bart has arrived in the Major Leagues, and hopefully will stay for the foreseeable future. I’ll take you through what I thought about Bart’s performance on both sides of the ball in his Major League debut.
For non-Giants fans/casual fans, the Giants called up Joey Bart, a top 20 prospect in all of baseball and is the consensus 2nd best catching prospect in the sport after Adley Rutschman. For Giants fans who have clamored for this event to happen since the start of the 2020 season, Bart is the heir apparent to Buster Posey behind the crouch.
Since it is a holiday in my country, I got the chance to watch Bart’s first game in its entirety. I was a little sick but I completed the game (maybe the adrenaline kicked in) to gave you my thoughts. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
With Bart made his Major League debut, that meant the top 4 selections of the 2018 MLB Draft all made the Majors this year. A couple of hours before Bart’s game, I tweeted out my general expectations on him in the Majors.
Just before game time, I noticed Bart being distant from other players, most likely as a way to focus himself to this moment. Afterwards, it’s game time.
I started with defense because after all, that’s the first thing that he’s done on the field. He was the catcher throughout the entirety of the game and caught Kevin Gausman, Sam Selman, Shaun Anderson, Wandy Peralta, and Jarlin Garcia.
I definitely saw some signs of nerves from him in the first inning, with him not being on the same page with Gausman as the right-hander shook off some pitches and was kind of surprised with the movement of Gausman’s pitches. Bart actually got crossed up on one occasion where he thought a breaking pitch down and away was coming but a changeup was thrown instead against Mike Trout. I could also sense that he receiving was a little shaky where the mitt was moving around quite a bit, where the ball was close to popping out of Bart’s glove on Gausman’s first strikeout.
While it was quite evident that his receiving is a little off, he showed good movement behind the plate as he was doing a good job catching balls down in the zone and off the plate.
The incredible thing is that a typical rookie making his Major League debut will settle after a game or two. With Bart, he settled in after the first inning. His second inning work behind the plate was a master class of catching. His glove work was on point, with his really soft mitt catching balls without any other unnecessary movement because he already understood the expected movement on Gausman’s pitches. He’s stealing borderline calls because of the quietness of his mitt, where some pitches that were fouled would’ve been called strikes due to how easy and calm Bart would’ve caught the ball.
About his blocking, yeah, he pulled out this bad boy.
That was textbook technique in blocking balls in the dirt, doing his best to have the ball back towards home plate. His lower half movement was sublime and was upright right away checking for any potential shenanigans happening on the bases because with a runner on third, that pitch could’ve easily scored a run if Bart did not handle that breaking ball the way that he did.
There was still some differences between what the battery-mates wanted to throw on certain spots but was definitely settling in very nicely. He even gave Gausman a “let’s go” nod after Gausman blew a fastball by on a hitter for a strike.
Scouring through my notes on his defense as the game moved forward, I kept writing that his glove looked very soft and he was receiving the ball easy, where he was comfortable catching Gausman’s changeups down in the zone where stole some borderline calls. He stabbed a ball close to the dirt with no issue. There was an instance where he was getting a bit too cheeky with his glove that he tried to frame a 1-0 pitch against Adell in the fourth inning that popped out of his glove.
When he worked with the relievers, Bart also showed good pitch framing as well but also had the same jumpy feel on the mitt that was similar to his first inning with Gausman. However, Bart’s framing the final pitch of the game was superb as the mitt was quiet when Jarlin Garcia executed his fastball down and away.
Other than the wild pitch that Bart could not corral later on in the game, his blocking skills are in full display. He’s blocked a couple more pitches in the dirt that was not as hard to corral as the 2nd inning one and the one that he could not, he showed consistency in his technique. Not trying to get too cute behind the dish. His lower half agility was also excellent, moving his body without compromising his glove very well (made sound catching on balls that were not thrown in the area that he’s expecting it to go).
I want to point out that while Bart’s stole strikes on the three pitches on the Tweet, I would have loved to see him present the pitch to the home plate umpire better by keeping the glove with as minimal movement as possible rather than lifting the mitt up on pitches down.
While I have to point out that lifting the mitt up on pitches down and vice versa to pitches high is much better and Bart’s hand strength was evident because of it, there will be some instances that Bart might not get the call in the future because of his presentation of the mitt. It was evident because there were instances later in the game that Bart could’ve gotten borderline calls later in the game like the 0-1 pitch against Brian Goodwin in the 9th inning. However, it might not matter in the end once robo umps comes into play.
There was zero opportunities for Bart’s arm strength to get tested today but I will definitely be on the lookout in the coming days whether teams will test him.
Takeaways on Bart’s defense in his MLB debut:
– His blocking was exceptional, with a very agile and instinctive lower half.
– His framing was very strong on borderline pitches, stealing a handful of strikes, but I want him to be more quiet in terms of pitch presentation.
– His game-calling was still to be determined as it was pretty hard to grasp but he made some good pitch calls to get out of tough situations in the middle of the game. Pitchers looked comfortable working with him.
Because the Giants scored a lot of runs in this game as they usually did at Oracle Park in 2020, Bart got five chances to prove that his bat was legit.
In his first plate appearance, Bart took the very first pitch that he’s seen as a Major Leaguer for a strike. He then took a fastball very high and in for a ball. It’s been known that Bart missed time last year because he got hit to his hand on two separate occasions so that was on the back of my mind (and for sure, his as well). He then reached out on a changeup that he was early on. He slipped a bit in his follow through but was totally fine. He then took another pitch in near his hands and then was hit in his foot by a breaking ball that got away. It’s a pretty anti-climactic way to reach first base for the first time as a big leaguer but a base is a base.
In his second plate appearance, it was a golden opportunity for him to stamp his mark on the squad. Facing a bases loaded situation with only one out and a chance to bust the game wide open, Bart fouled the first pitch, a fastball inside and on the edge, foul. It was notable because one of Bart’s issues offensively is that his swing tends to get long so pounding him inside can work. However, it was pretty notable that Bart’s using a one-handed finish on his swings, potentially in a better effort to cover the inside half of the plate. Bart then took a fastball right down the pipe for a strike. After he took a fastball away for a ball, the Angels pitcher got Bart fishing on an off-speed pitch in the dirt for the strikeout. A disappointing at-bat and Bart’s body language has shown that he was disappointed as well.
The third plate appearance went in a hurry. After taking a fastball inside for a ball, Bart got underneath a fastball up and in the zone for an infield flyout, the first ball that he’s put in play.
Now 0-2 with a strikeout and a popout, Bart pulled a middle-in fastball foul to start his fourth plate appearance. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Bart did this.
Sounded like an absolute shot out of the cannon off the bat just inches out of Rendon’s reach, the double down the left field line was his first Major League hit and was close to tallying his first Major League RBI. Him hitting with a one-handed finish bore fruit as the pitch that he will remember forever was a hanging slider that was a plain mistake pitch that he capitalized on. Remember the part of the Tweet that I wrote Bart “will punish mistakes”? Well, there it was.
Remember that I also wrote on the Tweet that he has “big power”? The ball came off the bat at 109.5 MPH, that is the hardest hit ball by any player in the game. It sounded like it, and Statcast confirmed it.
In his final plate appearance of the night, Bart was late on a ball in the inside half of the zone. It was notable that he had his usual two-handed follow through on that one as compared to swinging one-handed in his earlier at-bats, potentially trying to do damage. After a good take on an inside fastball, Bart then swung through a nasty slider inside off the plate. After taking two sliders that failed to get through the zone, Bart pulled his hands in, use his one-handed follow through to make contact on the same slider that he swung through a couple of pitches prior for an easy groundball to Rendon. His stat line at end was 1-4 (2B), HBP.
Takeaways on Bart’s bat in his MLB debut:
– Bart utilized a one-handed follow through to cover inside pitches, and put that to good use with his loud double as his first MLB hit.
– Bart didn’t show any nerves in my opinion in the batter’s box, looking for his pitch and with good recognition of the strike zone.
– He actually met my expectations offensively, showed big power and punished mistakes with his double but would swing and miss as proven by his strikeout in his second plate appearance.
To watch all of Bart’s plate appearance as well as his first inning in the crouch, watch the video below credits to BALLCAP Sports:
Overall, Bart’s first game got me pretty hyped up because it was the most hyped Major League debut by a Giant since Buster Posey a decade ago. But at the same time, I felt like he already belonged in the Majors; like it was just a normal day in the BIG BART, showing exemplary defense behind the plate, especially his blocking, and big power in his right-handed bat.
However, there are some things that I thought he could improve, like being more quiet with his glove in his pitch framing (I want to see him do the pitch framing that he did in the final pitch of the game more often). The one-handed follow through that I saw more often in intra-squads last July was also interesting that it made thought if he could potentially have a better bat control and overall hit tool that I first thought of.
All in all, it was just day 1 of hopefully a long and storied career for the Buford, Georgia native. The important thing for him moving forward is to keep showing the consistency in his bat to turn down the noise of his bat being not really refined and will not run in the same career path as Mike Zunino for being called up too early. But for Giants fans, it’s a day to rejoice, as he is the first of hopefully a big wave of position prospects to hopefully bring the Giants back to the top of the mountain like they did so in the last decade.
Feature Image Credit: @sfgiants on Twitter