Catcher still long-term strength for Giants after losing Posey originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Farhan Zaidi has spoken publicly twice at Oracle Park since the end of the Giants season, under very different circumstances.
Last Thursday, Zaidi injected some humor into Buster Posey’s retirement press conference, asking him if he would reconsider and telling stories about text messages he had exchanged with Posey, along with more touching ones about how Posey helped him feel at home when he took the job as president of baseball operations.
The previous week, Zaidi sat behind a similar podium for his end-of-season press conference, not fully knowing what was to come. He called Posey the best catcher in baseball.
“I feel really good about the state of that position at this point,” Zaidi said.
The Giants no longer have Posey at the top of that depth chart, but as Zaidi, who on Monday night was named MLB’s executive of the year, and general manager Scott Harris put together the 2022 roster, they still should feel good about their catchers.
The Giants might have more starting catching depth in the minors than anyone, and the leader of that group will take over in 2022. After the Posey news became official, Zaidi said repeatedly that it’s time to turn things over to Joey Bart, who was the primary catcher in 2020 after Posey opted out.
“He’s right there,” Zaidi said on MLB Network on Tuesday morning. “We’ve talked about how in 2020 he came up without a ton of upper level experience, so I don’t think he really put his best foot forward in the big leagues in 2020. This past season he got a lot of really important Triple-A reps. He had a great year in Triple-A for us, came up a couple of times and seemed like a different guy. He’s a top-25 prospect in baseball and this is what you hope for, that when your top guys reach that Triple-A level and produce that there’s an opportunity for them.
“It’s never a good time to lose a player like Buster Posey, but it’s a great time for Joey Bart to step up and take advantage of this opportunity.”
Bart was drafted while Zaidi was in Los Angeles and Harris in Chicago, and since taking over, they have taken a cautious approach with the top prospect. Bart was not initially on the Opening day roster in 2020 after Posey opted out, although he did get 103 at-bats and played in more than half that season’s games.
That seemed to set Bart up to team up with Posey the next season, but the Giants brought in Curt Casali so Bart could spend the whole season developing in Triple-A. Injuries limited him to 67 games, but he posted a .831 OPS with 10 homers. Bart got just six at-bats in the big leagues, but the Giants did bring him up a couple of times to spend a few days with Posey, Casali and their coaching staff. He was on the taxi squad throughout the NLDS, doing early work with the hitting coaches and bullpen coach Craig Albernaz.
If Bart does need to be eased in, the Giants can ride Casali. He’s arbitration-eligible and will be brought back, and while the overall offensive numbers in 2021 were subpar, Casali has a prior history of being a pretty solid hitter. He also has the full trust of the staff. The Giants were 42-13 in Casali’s starts and his 2.72 catcher’s ERA was the best in the big leagues.
The Giants are hopeful Casali’s bat catches up next season and Bart breaks through, but they won’t be dependent on it. They have a deep enough lineup that they should be able to make up for any early offensive issues, although this is an organization that had an advantage at catcher for a dozen years and hopes to keep that going. The long-term outlook is promising.
Two years after they took Bart second overall, the Giants selected Patrick Bailey with the 13th overall selection. Bailey struggled so much in High-A Eugene that he was briefly sent to the facility in Scottsdale to work on things, but he returned to Low-A San Jose and tore it up down the stretch, posting a .415 on-base percentage and slugging .531. Bailey has carried that over to the Arizona Fall League, where he has a .848 OPS.
Bailey is 22, as is Ricardo Genoves, a favorite sleeper prospect of a lot of people in the front office and on the coaching staff. Genoves had a .812 OPS and 14 homers across three levels in 2021.
Bailey and Genoves almost certainly won’t be options in 2022, which does leave a gap in the system. Bart and Chadwick Tromp served as the upper level depth behind Posey and Casali, but Bart is now the big league starter and Tromp is with the Atlanta Braves. Zaidi and Harris will add depth, ideally a couple of players similar to Tromp, who can start next season in Triple-A and not take up valuable 40-man spots.
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They feel good about the position, certainly much better than most organizations would after losing a franchise player. But they also know that the entire group has huge shoes to fill. At the press conference last week, Zaidi noted that he didn’t quite realize what a difference Posey would make until he returned from the year off.
“I don’t think I fully appreciated that until we had you back this year and the difference you made to this team this year,” he said. “Everything we were able to accomplish was because of you. I think all of us feel that way.”
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