Giant Catch: Joey Bart Checks All The Boxes
The Giants don’t often pick in the top 10, but when they do they have an enviable track record in the draft.
Just four times this century have the Giants picked a player in the top 10. The worst of those four picks is righthander Zack Wheeler, who went sixth overall in 2009 and never suited up for the Giants—but he landed Carlos Beltran in trade.
The other three are a big reason the Giants have three World Series trophies this decade. San Francisco picked righthander Tim Lincecum (10th, 2006), lefthander Madison Bumgarner (10th, 2007) and catcher Buster Posey (fifth, 2008).
“What’s made us successful (when picking in the top 10) is that we are picking guys who will do the work. They get themselves to the big leagues,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. “They have baseball in their blood. That’s what they are about. There was a consistency of the person and the baseball talent. Those things together is what made those guys successful. They made themselves easy to pick.”
The Giants have seen how picking well at the top of a draft can help the organization for years to come. Now, they will find out if Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, whom they selected No. 2 overall this year, has that same drive and talent.
Once the Tigers chose Auburn righthander Casey Mize at No. 1 overall, the Giants considered it an easy choice to take the best catcher in the draft class, one who has power and hitting ability to go with solid defense.
But moments before the 2018 draft began, the Giants still weren’t sure that Bart would be their pick.
It used to be that the team picking at the top of the draft would telegraph who they would pick to other teams, and in doing so would help the teams following them set up their boards. But with the current bonus pool allotment system, teams have found uncertainty is better for negotiations.
So the Giants, like every other team, thought it was likely that Detroit would choose Mize at the top, but they couldn’t be sure until they heard Commissioner Rob Manfred announce the selection.
When the Tigers officially made Mize their pick, Giants area scout Luke Murton let out a yell. That’s because the Giants had plenty of experience and comfort with Bart, whom they had scouted over the course of the past several seasons.
Three years ago, Bart was one of the top high school catching prospects in the country, so the Giants scouted him relatively extensively. At the time, he was seen as a bat-first catcher whose defense needed to catch up to his offense, though scouts were impressed that he called his own game.
When Bart arrived at Georgia Tech, he quickly announced himself with a solid freshman season and an even more impressive summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .309 with six extra-base hits in 97 at-bats. Bart’s power arrived as a sophomore, when he launched 13 home runs. But most importantly, he has made significant strides defensively. He’s no longer a hit-first catcher. He’s a catcher who runs the team, receives well and also hits in the middle of the order.
And the Giants had a little inside information. Murton is a Yellow Jacket himself. He played four seasons for Georgia Tech from 2006-09 and then suited up professionally for five seasons.
When Murton watched Bart take batting practice last fall, he noticed that he was hitting balls far beyond the fences at Russ Chandler Stadium to spots where neither he nor nearly any other Yellow Jacket he knew had hit them.
More than that, he knows the Yellow Jackets staff. Coach Danny Hall also coached Murton a decade ago. Hitting coach/catching instructor Mike Nickeas played with Luke’s older brother Matt Murton at Georgia Tech. And Steve Tamborra, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, was a mentor of Murton’s when he was in college.
As Murton described it, Tamborra told Luke things about his own personality that he didn’t realize until years later. So when Tamborra vouched for Bart, it carried a lot of weight. And it didn’t hurt when Bart went out and hit .359/.471/.632 with 16 home runs as a junior, all while calling his own game behind the plate.
“Joey did a great job,” Murton said. “He made scouting easy. He stood up and said, ‘Pick me, pick me.’ He went out and did exactly what you hoped to see him do.”
Murton was one of many Giants scouts to evaluate Bart this spring. By vice president of scouting John Barr’s estimate, at least 15 different scouts saw and wrote up Bart this season.
“It was not hard to get looks at Joey Bart,” Barr said. “He’s a position player who played every day. He was maybe one of the easiest guys to get in and out to see this year. They play at Georgia Tech. It’s easy to get there from (the Atlanta) airport. Whenever they were at home it was an easy get.”
But Bart wasn’t the only one receiving scrutiny. The Giants also had someone at nearly every start Mize made this year, and they had similar coverage on some other targets as well.
“You start to whittle it down from 15 to 10 to five (names),” Barr said. “For scheduling with our national guys and our supervisors, we try to get each and every one in to see those top 10 guys. Then you are trying to pare it down from there to get last looks to certain players.”
“When you have that many people, you aren’t all seeing the same thing,” said Barr, who mentioned Mize, Florida righthander Brady Singer and Arizona high school lefthander Matthew Liberatore as other prospects of interest.
“We only had one team picking ahead of us and we really like these three to five guys,” Barr said. “Once that realization came together, it was relaxing at that point in time. We felt like we were going to get a good player.”
But in a group of good prospects, the Giants feel like they got the best in Bart.
“I think his all-around game, the improvement he has made year to year, and the presence he has on the field, we got to see that up close,” Evans said. “He made himself an easy pick.”