If you decided to hide under the couch for the last few months (and I don’t blame you if you did), then let me fill you in one one of the more notable developments of the 2020 season for the San Francisco Giants:
Joey Bart made his MLB debut.
Exciting! Except let me fill you in on one of the other more notable developments of the 2020 season for the Giants:
Joey Bart made his MLB debut, was the starter for much of the season, and was not good.
Oh. Less exciting! He hit just .233/.288/.320 with up-and-down defense. Except let me fill you in on some context for some of the more notable developments of the 2020 season for the Giants:
Joey Bart made his MLB debut, was the starter for much of the season, and was not good, but that’s OK because he was a rookie and many rookies are quite bad.
That was doubly true in 2020, when everything was weird. As evidence, have a look at the only player in the 2018 MLB Draft selected ahead of Bart: Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize. Mize also made his debut in 2020, and in 28.1 innings allowed 29 hits, 13 walks, and 22 earned runs.
Or how about Los Angeles Angels outfielder Jo Adell, a top-10 prospect in many people’s eyes, who made his debut and hit 20-124, with just 7 walks, good for a slash line of .161/.212/.266. Of the 581 position players to take the field in 2020, Adell was the least valuable, per Fangraphs. His -1.3 Wins Above Replacement made Bart’s 0.1 WAR look positively All-Star caliber.
So we can condense the notable developments into a development that doesn’t actually feel very notable:
Joey Bart made his debut, as we expected, and it was mediocre, as we probably should have expected.
Ahh, that’s better.
But now, as the postseason teams duke it out, we, as Giants fans, turn our eyes towards 2021.
It’s not at all clear what Bart’s role will be next season. It’s usually uncommon for a top prospect to get heavy playing time during meaningful games, and then go back to the Minor Leagues the next year. But Bart is, of course, a unique player in a unique situation in a unique year.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was open with reporters that Bart might start next season in AAA.
Farhan Zaidi said Giants are still "super high" on Joey Bart, but added that they have depth behind Buster Posey next year and he might even go out and look for another veteran so Bart can start season in Triple-A and continue his development.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 30, 2020
Let’s look at everything factoring into Bart’s 2021, and how much time he spends at the big league level.
The Minor Leagues
Bart got a good amount of time at the Alternate Training Site in Sacramento prior to his call up, and it’s worth noting that the Giants kept him there well past the amount of time they would have needed to for simple service time manipulation. They genuinely wanted him there, developing.
There were no Minor Leagues this year, and as a result, Bart didn’t get to play in AAA. He’s still never appeared in a AAA game, and has fewer than 100 plate appearances in AA. Sacramento is a valuable place for Bart to get some development time next year.
It’s one thing to get prioritized on a roster where Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp are the other bodies at your position. It’s another thing entirely when Buster Posey is there.
Posey will be returning next year, and while he’s been regressing for a few years, he’s still a good player with time left on his contract. Plus, with the offensive resurgences of Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, it’s fair to think Posey might be in for a bounce-back year with a new coaching staff, and a year off to rehab his hip.
Potential rule changes
The National League adopted the designated hitter for 2020, and there’s reason to think — and fear — that the rule is here to stay. If so, the Giants will probably give Posey a fair amount of time at the DH, if only to keep him healthy and fresh. That means more time for other catchers.
Potential personnel changes
A year ago, there was chatter that Posey or Bart could spend a significant amount of time at first base to make room for both of them. And then Belt had one of the best offensive seasons in all of baseball. Wilmer Flores, who was supposed to platoon with Belt at first, had such a good offensive season that he became the de facto DH and got plenty of starts at second.
Even if the Giants got really creative and put a catcher at third base, Evan Longoria had a bounce-back defensive season. Now it’s hard to see the Giants making time for Posey or Bart anywhere other than behind the dish, or as a DH.
That could change, if the team tries to take advantage of those good seasons and unload some veteran contracts. But that doesn’t seem likely right now.
Add it all up, and there are a lot of factors that will impact how much time Bart gets at the big league level next year. But perhaps none more so than ...
Bart got to work with Posey in Spring Training in 2020, but not in Summer Camp. He’ll get a chance again in 2021, and the progression he shows while working next to an all-time great catcher will be a major factor in determining what role Bart has.
#SFGiants haven't explicitly said it, but the most important part of Bart's development is going to be the 6 weeks he spends with Posey next spring. Buster is Joey's best coach, mentor, role model, etc.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) September 30, 2020
Even if Bart starts at AAA, he'll be in big league camp until the last day. https://t.co/OgOdxhkFY0
So, with all that said ... how many plate appearances do you expect Bart to have in 2021?
How many plate appearances will Joey Bart get in 2021?
This poll is closed
Fewer than 100
More than 500