In terms of bodies on the 28-player Opening Day roster, the San Francisco Giants have exactly one position that is set.
We know Brandon Crawford will start the bulk of the games at shortstop, but we don’t know who will back him up. We know Brandon Belt will start the bulk of the games at first base when healthy, but we don’t know if he’s healthy. We know what the rotation will be, but the bullpen is still something of a mystery. We know the main players in the outfield, but the actual setup remains unknown, and in constant flux due to injuries.
But we know the catchers.
Joey Bart and Curt Casali. Curt Casali and Joey Bart.
There are no other catchers in competition to make the Opening Day roster. There are no other catchers in competition to earn a spot as the season goes on.
There aren’t even any other catchers on the 40-man roster.
Something will have to go wrong for that to change at any point during the season. The most likely way it goes wrong is with an injury, but Bart could perform poorly for long enough that the Giants are forced to send him back to the Minors, or Casali could perform poorly for long enough that San Francisco sends him packing, or the Giants could perform poorly for long enough that they sell high on a hot Bart month and ship him off so they can start thinking about future seasons.
But in all likelihood, it’ll be Bart and Casali starting the season and Bart and Casali ending the season, and Bart and Casali along for the ride for the middle of the season, save for the odd 15-day IL stint here or there.
Yet for all that we do know about the Giants catchers, there’s just as much that we don’t know.
Namely, we don’t know the answer to these five questions:
1. Will Joey Bart be good?
2. Will Curt Casali be good?
3. Will Joey Bart be the starting catcher and Curt Casali the backup?
4. Will Curt Casali be the starting catcher and Joey Bart the backup?
5. Will Joey Bart and Curt Casali split catching time evenly?
The projections answer the first two questions with an emphatic “meh,” and the fifth question with an equally emphatic “yes.” ZiPS foresees a 0.9-WAR season for Bart, with an 84 wRC+ in 77 games, and a 0.5-WAR season for Casali, with an 81 wRC+ in 75 games.
But there are reasons to spill your three-pound box of kosher salt on the projections, especially if you’re a Giants fan in the year 2022. And the reality is that the projections see those two players as having totally-acceptable-but-not-notable seasons because no one has any clue what they’ll actually do.
Bart has 43 strikeouts in 117 career plate appearances, with just three walks and no home runs. He’s coming off of a season in which he hit barely better than league average in AAA.
But he was also the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and when Buster Posey, one of the best players in baseball a year ago, decided to hang up his cleats, Farhan Zaidi’s response was to publicly put trust in Bart and then make no moves at the position whatsoever.
Casali’s offensive and advanced stats last year were that of a backup catcher.
But he also had two brilliant months, was fantastic in 2020, and seemed to lead Giants pitchers to shutouts every time he started a game last year.
So when it comes to figuring out how the Giants will allocate playing time between Bart and Casali, and how those two will perform, I’ll pass the mic to a man much smarter than I am.
What we do know is that those two are the guys.
Bart and Casali. Casali and Bart.