Here's why the Giants' new switch-hitting catcher could stick in the Majors

May 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants turned to their farm system for another infusion of youth on Friday, calling up catcher from Triple-A Sacramento after landed on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain.

Bailey, the Giants’ 2020 first-round Draft pick out of North Carolina State, made his Major League debut in the club’s 4-3 win over the Marlins on Friday night, entering the game in the seventh inning after pinch-hit for fellow catcher .

Bailey is expected to catch in his first Major League start on Saturday afternoon, giving the Giants their first look at their newest homegrown battery.

“Pretty cool, pretty cool,” Bailey said. “Hopefully I’ll relax and do my thing and get the best out of him.”

Here are five things to know about the 23-year-old switch-hitter:

• Bailey, the Giants’ No. 11 prospect, found out he’d been promoted from Triple-A Sacramento manager Dave Brundage, who pulled him aside following Thursday’s game.

“Right when I was walking out of the clubhouse, Brundy pulled me in and was like, ‘Hey, I’m trying to figure out the lineup for tomorrow. Not sure if we can get you in there,’” Bailey recalled. “I was obviously a little confused. And he was like, ‘We’re going to give you the day off so you can drive over to San Francisco.’ That was pretty cool.”

Bailey’s first call was to Giants catching coach Craig Albernaz, though he clarified that he didn’t pick up the phone until he shared the news with his wife, Leigha, in person.

“Don’t worry,” Bailey said. “I didn’t mess up.”

Leigha was on hand for Bailey’s debut on Friday night, wiping away tears as she held the couple’s baby daughter, Briella.

• A switch-hitter since age 11, Bailey homered from both sides of the plate in the same game twice in his career at North Carolina State -- first against William & Mary as a freshman, then against Iowa as a junior. No other player in program history has ever done that even once.

Maybe that's why Bailey's Wolfpack teammates nicknamed him "Patty Barrels."

• A natural righty, Bailey has swung much better from the left side since turning pro. He posted an .851 OPS against right-handed pitching in 2022, compared to a .452 OPS against lefties. Despite the pronounced splits, Bailey said the Giants haven’t tried to talk him out of continuing to switch-hit.

“I think, if anything, [I've] been encouraged to keep working on it,” Bailey said. “That’s kind of something I’ve tried to continue to develop. And just making sure I prioritize my right-handed swing outside of the game because you obviously don’t get too many left-handers.”

• Similar to slick-fielding infielder  -- who was taken in the second round of the 2020 Draft -- Bailey’s calling card is his defense. He won the Minor League Gold Glove Award at catcher last season and has drawn rave reviews from the Giants coaching staff for his all-around skillset behind the plate. Bailey’s arm strength doesn’t jump off the page, but he has the ability to throw from a variety of arm angles. He also excels at blocking, framing and gaining the trust of his pitchers.

“I would say he really knows what he’s doing,” said right-handed reliever Ryan Walker, who was also called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. “I honestly trust every pitch he chooses to call. I know he’s got a reason. You feel very comfortable with him when you’re on the mound.”

• Bailey might not just be an injury replacement. His glove is more advanced than his bat, but his defense should give him a solid baseline and amplify his chances of sticking in the Majors.

“He’s very well equipped to catch at the Major League level right now,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Given his better results from the left side, Bailey could end up forming a platoon with the right-handed-hitting Bart when the latter is ready to come off the IL. Sabol should remain in the mix as well, especially since he can alternate between catching and playing left field for the Giants.