On the first day of his first spring training in charge of the Giants, manager Gabe Kapler spent a good amount of time talking to reporters about top prospect Joey Bart. The two had met over the offseason and Kapler was excited to watch Bart develop with a month in big league camp.
For an organization that hasn't made an offseason splash the last couple of years, Bart represents quite a bit. He is the player fans are most excited to see whenever baseball resumes, the one who gets the most attention every time the Giants take the field for drills, and the leader of a generation of good prospects that's storming towards Oracle Park.
But Bart now has some company in the squat, with the Giants using their first-round draft pick Wednesday on fellow ACC catcher Patrick Bailey. Farhan Zaidi hopped on a Zoom call a couple hours later and explained that you always take the best player available and you can never have too much catching. Looking forward, there are a number of ways this can go.
Catchers get hurt and they wear down, as Giants fans have learned all too well with Buster Posey's collision in 2011 and a more recent hip surgery. Second-rounder Tommy Joseph ultimately moved off the position because of concussions, which also changed Hector Sanchez's career. Andrew Susac had trouble staying healthy. Aramis Garcia, also a second-rounder, had injury issues in the minors and hip surgery this spring. Bart suffered two hand fractures last year while hitting, and that hand will take a beating over the years as he catches.
Catchers also can become excellent trade chips. The Giants used Joseph to get Hunter Pence and Garcia was thought to be part of the proposed plan to get Giancarlo Stanton.
The Giants don't know what their organization will look like in three years, but in an ideal world, Bart and Bailey will coexist. Bart already was headed for a similar situation with Posey and the Giants talked often this spring of making Bart comfortable at a second position. Versatility now is king at Oracle Park.
"I think when we look at what our ideal team and our ideal roster looks like, the dream scenario is to have two catchers that can impact the game offensively and defensively," Zaidi said. "If you're lucky enough to have that, there are going to be times when you want both guys in the lineup.
"Who knows what the future holds in terms of whether we go to a universal DH, but I think that's something that we want all of our catchers to do. (We want) all the guys in the system to be able to play a different position."
[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
The Giants talked this over from every angle, and Zaidi also mentioned how a 26-man roster will change the future math. He thinks teams may carry three catchers for large chunks of the season, and that will make it more imperative that catchers are versatile. Zaidi came from the Los Angeles Dodgers, where backups Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer often played infield spots.
"Having that versatility speaks to aspirationally what we want the roster to look like," Zaidi said.
That process already is underway in the organization, and soon Bailey will get a taste of it. He has always been a catcher and doesn't have an obvious second position, but you can bet that ultimately will be part of the conversation. The Giants shot down those questions with Bart when he was drafted but admitted this spring that a second position was in the plans.
For now, the focus with Bailey will be on finding some way for him to continue his development as a catcher in 2020. He won't be on a taxi squad, but could be part of a "stay-hot" camp or even participate in the Fall League. You can expect Bailey to be in big league camp next spring with Bart, his opponent in a NC State-Georgia Tech matchup in 2018.
One day they may be in a timeshare. Right now, Bailey simply is ready to soak up knowledge. He mentioned Bart as someone he was ready to learn from.
"You learn from different guys and learn different ways of doing stuff and see if you can implement that in my game," Bailey said.