Image credit: Joey Bart (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Most players take a few years after being drafted before breaking into their first major league spring training camp.
Joey Bart is not like most players.
Bart, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound catcher, slid to the 27th round of the MLB draft out of high school because teams expected him to make good on a commitment to Georgia Tech and because his work behind the plate needed improvement.
He’s been on an upward trajectory ever since.
After Bart excelled during three seasons at Georgia Tech and in the Cape Cod League, especially in 2016, the Giants scooped him up with the second overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.
After signing for the largest bonus in MLB history given to a position player, reportedly just more than $7 million, Bart immediately headed into the minors. After a quick, six-game stop in the Rookie-level Arizona League, he hit .298 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in 45 games with short-season Salem Keizer.
And just like that, Bart finds himself in the Cactus League as a non-roster invitee to the Giants major league camp.
It’s rare that a player is invited to big league camp after his first professional season. Bart, who just celebrated his 22nd birthday in December, is the youngest player in the Giants camp by more than a year.
That speaks to how highly the Giants value Bart’s ability and potential.
While the talent has always been evident, it’s his work ethic that stands out. Bart understands his role in camp this spring and is trying to absorb as much as he can from more seasoned players around him.
The willingness to learn has already caught the eye of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who commended the way Bart has handled the transition.
“It’s not easy, your first spring training,” Bochy said. “It’s different. This is a guy that’s always been ‘the guy’ but he’s here to learn.”
Bart realized he was in for an adjustment.
“In the past, I’ve kind of been that leader that people come and watch and see,” he said. “I’m in a reverse role, watching guys like MadBum (Madison Bumgarner), Buster (Posey), Rene Rivera, watching what they do.”
Bart couldn’t ask for a better situation to learn the art of catching. Posey, who is slowly working his way back from season-ending hip surgery, is a six-time All-Star and former NL Most Valuable Player.
Bochy was a catcher himself, spending nine seasons in the big leagues. And the Giants have taken the additional step of asking Class A San Jose Giants manager Billy Hayes, the team’s former bullpen catcher and first base coach, to serve as Bart’s personal mentor.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a catching guy with him, so this will work out great,” Bochy said regarding Hayes. “To have him day in and day out helping with his progress, that’s going to be nice for Joey.”
The external pressure on Bart is obvious. Just one year into his professional career he has skyrocketed to a position atop the Giants’ list of top prospects and Baseball America rates him 29th on its list of the 2019 Top 100 MLB Prospects.
Many people have already dubbed him the heir apparent to Posey. However, Bart knows he isn’t progressing that quickly.
“I don’t listen to any of that,” he said. “That’s just what people say. There’s a lot of crazy things getting thrown around in the media today. If I was worried about that, I’d have a real hard time playing and trying to do what I do every day.”
Andre Simms is a senior majoring in sports journalism at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between Sports Illustrated and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.