Bart ready for 2nd big league camp with Giants

February 15th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The main entrance to the Giants’ new clubhouse is flanked by two lockers belonging to the current and potentially future face of the franchise.

Buster Posey lies on one side. Joey Bart is on the other.

“That is by design,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We want those guys to be spending time together.”

Bart, the Giants’ No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, figures to be one of the more prominent storylines of the spring as he continues his tutelage under Posey in his second big-league camp with the Giants. Even with the injury to Aramis Garcia, Bart isn’t viewed as a candidate for the Opening Day roster, but it shouldn’t be long before the 23-year-old catcher is ready to debut in San Francisco.

“My goal for the spring is just to come in every day and put myself in a great position to get better, because I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bart said Wednesday. “Continue to learn every day. That’s basically where I’m moving forward from. I try not to get too ahead of myself at all. I just try to stay around and keep moving forward.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, Bart encountered his share of setbacks in his first full professional season last year. He opened the 2019 campaign with Class A Advanced San Jose, where he enjoyed a promising start to the season before sustaining a left hand fracture on a hit-by-pitch in April. Bart ended up missing six weeks before returning to action in June. Two months later, he earned a promotion to Double-A Richmond, where he batted .316 with a .912 OPS and four home runs over 22 games.

The Giants sent Bart to the Arizona Fall League to log more reps ahead of the 2020 season, and he emerged as one of the most impressive prospects on the showcase before suffering another dose of misfortune. Facing Pirates prospect during a game on Oct. 6, Bart took a 96 mph fastball off his right hand that fractured his thumb, prematurely ending his run in the AFL.

“I knew as soon it hit me it was broke,” Bart said. “They didn’t think it was, but I knew. I was like, ‘I’m not that lucky this year.’”

Bart said tensions were already running high that day, as the Pirates have developed a reputation for pitching inside. Bart was also struck on the hip on a slider from Red Sox prospect earlier in the game.

“I never played anyone with the Pirates, but that’s kind of what their thing is,” Bart said. “That’s what my teammates told me. When they faced him in Double-A, that’s all they did. And they just hit people left and right. Their philosophy is hard, in. That’s great, it’s definitely hard to hit. But if you can’t do it right, it obviously puts in a different ballgame. They were throwing in there hard. Very uncompetitive pitches. The one that hit me, it was going to hit me in the head if I didn’t somewhat get out of the way.”

Despite the injury mishaps, Bart said he doesn’t plan to wear additional padding on his hands this season, as he doesn’t want the equipment to interfere with his grip on the bat. His right hand is completely healed now, allowing him to put on an impressive show during batting practice toward the tail end of the Giants’ first workout for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday.

Bart is likely to open the season at Triple-A Sacramento to acquire a bit more seasoning before he’s ready to make the jump to the Majors, but there’s a chance he could force the issue with a huge spring. He’s off to a good start so far.

“First impression of watching him on the field take live batting practice is how loud the ball comes off his bat, particularly to the opposite field,” Kapler said. “He really drilled some baseballs today. He put some balls on the grass beyond the fence out there. It’s a big ballpark, so to come out the first day and be driving the ball that way is a good sign.”