SAN FRANCISCO — The last time the Giants took a catcher from Georgia, they won three World Series titles. They’re hoping for a repeat of history.
With the second pick in the MLB Draft, their highest selection in 33 years, the Giants took Joey Bart, a catcher from Georgia Tech widely viewed as the best position-player prospect available. Bart is from Buford, Georgia, a three-hour drive from Buster Posey’s hometown.
Bart said Posey was one of his favorite players growing up. The rumors have swirled for weeks that he would join Posey’s organization, and as the announcement was about to be made, Bart had one overwhelming thought.
“I hope the Giants want me because that’s where I want to be,” he said. “Everything worked out.”
Bart, who turns 22 in December, is listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. He bats from the right side, and this season was a nightmare for ACC pitchers, batting a league-leading .359 with a .471 on-base percentage and .632 slugging percentage. Bart became the first Georgia Tech player since Mark Teixeira to win the ACC Player-of-the-Year Award and he’s a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the Johnny Bench Award. This wasn’t just a one-year-run; Bart hit 13 homers as a sophomore and batted .299 with 10 doubles and 31 RBI as a freshman.
Bart is known as a quality receiver behind the plate with a good arm. Manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher himself, liked that Bart called his own pitches in an age when most directions come from the bench.
"He's gifted defensively and had a big year with the bat,” Bochy said. “You look at him and he's a man, a good sized kid already, and he really has developed his game and is playing well on both sides. He looks like he's pretty advanced. I don't know where he's going to start (in the minors) but you look at the size of the kid and his success and intangibles...you would think someone like this would be on the fast track."
Despite having a team in win-now mode, the Giants took the best available player, with an eye toward the future. It should be a workable situation no matter when Bart arrives. Posey is signed through 2021 with a team option for 2022 and first baseman Brandon Belt is also signed through 2021. If Bart moves quickly, he could break in as Posey’s backup, making 40-50 starts while learning from the best catcher in the game. Posey has played more first base over the years and Belt is comfortable in left field.
“Looking at the players available in this draft, the pool of players you’re evaluating, with this pool of players, to be able to get Joey Bart and be able to select him for the Giants, it was really good for us,” said John Barr, the team’s vice president in charge of scouting. “You can’t take for need. You get yourself in trouble when you take for need. Right now we look at Joey as being someone that we think has a chance to be an everyday catcher and hit in the middle of the lineup and hit for power.”
The Giants started scouting Bart in high school and followed him throughout his collegiate career. He met with Barr in Atlanta recently and also met with general manager Bobby Evans, and he was brought out to San Francisco last week for a workout at AT&T Park. It was said to be impressive. Bart, who said it was 100 degrees in Georgia, came away equally impressed with the other side of the equation.
“It was unreal,” he said. “Being right there on the water and the bay, it was really cool. It was a really different feeling. I’ve been a lot of places — SoCal and on the Cape — but it was just a different feeling and I soaked it all in. I loved hitting out there. I could hit out there all day long. It was so much fun.”
San Francisco made an additional selection on Monday, drafting right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle from the University of Kentucky at No. 45 overall:
Pick: Sean Hjelle, University of Kentucky (No. 45 overall)
Weight: 225 lbs
Hometown: White Bear Lake, Minnesota