Giants Mailbag: 2020 expectations for Joey Bart, other top prospects

Giants Mailbag: 2020 expectations for Joey Bart, other top prospects

If you paid close attention to the Giants' official social media accounts over the last couple of months, you might have noticed a slight change in tone. 

There's been a bit more attention paid to prospects, including a birthday shoutout from the official Twitter account to Joey Bart, who hasn't played above Double-A yet. The focus is shifting to the next generation, and those players are the focus of Part II of this end-of-year mailbag. 

Yesterday, I looked at the offseason, free agency, rotation and more. Today, we'll answer some fan questions about the next wave of Giants before getting to my favorite topic ... 

Where do we see Bart and Ramos starting? -- @giantsfan_208

At the end of the year, I asked Farhan Zaidi this same question. He said both top prospects will come to camp with "the opportunity but not with a guarantee of starting the season in Triple-A."

"They're going to have to earn that (promotion) and then we'll see where things go from there," Zaidi said. "One thing that we really wanted to emphasize and create a culture of this year was you earn your way through the system and there's no fixed timetables. Guys will be moved on merit and be given opportunities."

Bart, 23, and Ramos, 20, both started the 2019 season in San Jose and finished it in Richmond. I'd be a little shocked if Bart goes back to Richmond next season. Ramos is a bit further away, but both could start the season with Triple-A Sacramento. That might be the biggest story of the spring. 

Will we see Bart or Ramos in 2020? -- @jewels_kurp 

The Giants were aggressive in promoting prospects in Zaidi's first year, and there's no doubt they'll keep that up. Zaidi mentioned it at the Winter Meetings earlier this month. They don't seem all that interested in replacing Stephen Vogt, in part because Bart should be ready pretty early in the season. It's pretty common for top prospects to make it up by the end of April or early in May. Last year we even saw a few -- Pete Alonso, most notably -- break camp with their big-league club. 

Ramos needs more work, but he definitely looks like a September call-up, at the very least. There's not a lot ahead of him on the depth chart in center field, so a strong start to the season could have him up in San Francisco during the summer, too. 

What player is the org most excited about besides Bart and Ramos? -- @thephotobuth

Marco Luciano has the potential to be a game-changer for this organization. The shortstop just turned 18, but he already is showing his potential:

It's so hard to project teenagers, but Luciano has the bat speed, athleticism and approach to move quickly and turn into the kind of hitter you build a lineup around. The previous regime deserves a lot of credit for signing him out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. 

Seth Corry is another name that gets mentioned quite often by team officials, and he should start getting a lot more attention in 2020. I'll also mention here that I've had multiple Giants people tell me they couldn't believe Logan Webb never made a top 100 list. He just turned 23, and we saw flashes of his potential last season. 

[RELATED: How Giants fill Madison Bumgarner-sized hole in rotation]

Do you think we will see Sean Hjelle and Seth Corry this season? -- @jzandhatt

Corry pitched 122 2/3 innings for Augusta last season, so he likely is headed for a few months in San Jose and then potentially some time in Richmond. He just turned 21 and will still have his innings closely watched, so it would be a shock to see him anywhere near San Francisco next year. Start becoming familiar with him, though. The lefty had a 1.76 ERA last season with 172 strikeouts in those 122 2/3 innings. 

Hjelle has an advanced feel for pitching and repeats his delivery well, and he tore through two levels last year before struggling in Double-A. Once you get to Richmond, you're a couple of breaks away from the call to the show, and Hjelle, 23, should get an opportunity to jump to Triple-A and then the big leagues next season. The Giants stuck Webb in their rotation last August even though he had just come back from a suspension. I think they'll move quickly with Hjelle at some point, too. 

Minor league free agent signings? -- @akarralson93

Those should be announced in January. It'll be interesting to see who the Giants add to their outfield and bullpen mixes. They could also use some catching depth for the upper levels of the minors. 

Will "Alex Eats" be back in 2020? -- @moalsaffarini

Finally, the important stuff.

Thank you to everyone who watched and commented on our 10 Alex Eats videos last season! I was shocked at how many random Giants fans came up to me in visiting ballparks and asked what I had eaten that day. We're definitely doing it again, which both excites and terrifies me. 

What food are you hoping they add at the ballpark? -- @michaelreyes

I'd love it if they put a Tony's Pizza in the press box to save me some time. Honestly, I hope they steal an idea from Chase Center and throw some more local restaurants into the mix. We did an Alex Eats there during the Warriors' opener and the food was awesome.

Also, it's way too hard to find ranch dressing at Oracle Park. More ranch dressing dispensers in 2020! 

Barry Bonds' record-setting 762nd home run ball up for auction again

Barry Bonds' record-setting 762nd home run ball up for auction again

Nobody has ever hit more home runs in their MLB career than Barry Bonds. His 762 homers during his 22-year career still remains the all-time record.

That 762nd home run ball is a piece of history, and someone is going to own it soon.

The Action Network's Darren Rovell reported Tuesday the ball has been put up for auction. The bidding starts at $50,000.

The two-run homer came against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Sept. 5, 2007, off of Ubaldo Jimenez in the first inning of the 5-3 win for the Giants. 

And this ball had a weird, historic journey since it was hit.

Jameson Sutton was the lucky fan who retrieved the ball, but it wasn’t as storybook as that. Sutton actually reached over the fence to make the catch which meant umpires could have ruled fan interference in what would have made a dent in history.

[RELATED: What Tony Gwynn Jr. remembers about Bonds, dad exchanges]

This is also not the first time the ball has been up for sale. Back in April 2008, it sold for $376,612, according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Last year, it sold for $282,900 at auction.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi hears your rallying cries begging for the Giants call up Joey Bart.

What's there to lose, right? Well, the Giants' president of baseball operations believes there's a lot to lose, and is doing everything in his power to make sure Bart's transition to the big leagues is as smooth as possible

"What we have to lose is putting Joey Bart on a career path that doesn't allow him to get the most out of his ability," Zaidi recently said to the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea on the "Giants Splash" podcast. "What we have to lose is calling him up, maybe a little too early, having him struggle, having that impact his confidence and that's the last thing we want to do.

"Frankly, we'd rather be a little late on calling him up than a little early on calling him up." 

Bart, 23, is considered the second-best catching prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft hit .278 with 16 home runs last season between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. He also missed multiple weeks after fracturing his left hand and then fractured his right thumb early on in the Arizona Fall League.

When Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager, he faced similar decisions with calling up top prospects like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Bellinger was just 21 years old when he made his MLB debut against the Giants in April 2017. Seager also was just 21 when he debuted in September 2015. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

But Bellinger had 399 at-bats in Double-A and 78 more in Triple-A before he reached the big leagues. Seager had 228 in Double-A and 421 in Triple-A. Bart hasn't played a single game in Triple-A and only has 79 at-bats in Double-A. 

The goal is to make sure Bart follows a similar path as Bellinger and Seager. Bellinger won the NL MVP in just his third big league season. Seager won NL Rookie of the Year and already has been named to two All-Star Games. Those kind of accolades certainly are what Zaidi and Co. envision for Bart. 

With no minor league season this year, Bart is training at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento. There, he's learning how to play first base and working on very specific aspects of his overall game. He isn't able to play in full games right now, but Zaidi believes he still is able to grow as a player. 

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

"I still view him as getting important reps, because he's facing good pitching in Sacramento," Zaidi said. "We've got guys like Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez -- those guys are with the taxi squad right now -- but he had the opportunity to face those guys, as well as other guys who are Triple-A, big league pitchers.

"I think those are valuable reps." 

The Giants don't view Bart as someone who will just help them one day. They know he has superstar potential. And sometimes, that comes with a frustrating amount of patience.