Giants

Why Giants believe Joey Bart can have 'great comeback' from his injury

Why Giants believe Joey Bart can have 'great comeback' from his injury

The San Jose Giants' game Monday was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Excite Ballpark. Perhaps for the first time ever, the whole Giants organization must be wishing a game was postponed by rain.

Instead, the tarp came on, and the game was delayed an hour with first pitch at 7:30 p.m. Field conditions remained wet, and the worst scenario occurred for Giants top prospect Joey Bart in the fourth inning, when a fastball hit him on his left hand and fractured the second metacarpal.

Bart will be in a cast and is expected to miss the next 4 to 6 weeks. The Giants are disappointed in the news, but they believe there's still plenty of positives for the catcher to take away off the field.

“It’s a setback, and it sets him up for a great comeback," Giants farm director Kyle Haines said to Joe Ritzo on Tuesday on the Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. "It’s something that he’s gonna have to go through a lot of adversity, and this is something that will set him back and challenge him mentally. It gives him opportunities to maybe grow in other ways off the field, just with his knowledge and maybe take a step back.

"Maybe we can take some positives from this and teach him some things that aren’t necessarily between the lines and help his development there." 

The talent is there for Bart. The Giants knew that long before taking him with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. His mental makeup, however, is what's really impressed Haines and the rest of the Giants’ front office. 

“He came here really eager to show people what he could do on the field,” Haines said. “Joey stepped on the field, and from Day 1 has wanted to be a leader and key part of this team and help this team win.”

At the time of his injury, Bart was batting .270 with two home runs, eight RBI and an .882 OPS. He's also already thrown out seven base runners and picked off several more. How he's handled San Jose's pitching staff is what really encourages Haines. 

"It’s fantastic to watch him interact with the pitchers and learn them,” he said, “because he takes a lot of pride in his defense and his ability to work with pitchers, which is such a rare thing to see with someone who has such stardom to him.” 

Bart's arm strength stands out right away. It's been a real weapon in his first nine games behind the dish this season. Though his defense is highly regarded, Bart's receiving skills can use work at times. And he's done just that, constantly seeking advice and reviewing film on his defense.

Haines said Bart's receiving alone saved runs for San Jose in the team's opening series in Visalia. 

“He takes a lot of pride in saving his team extra base runners and runs with his receiving alone," Haines said. "It’s a rare quality to have because everyone goes to the batting average and things that look a little flashier, but he loves diving in deeper and asking, ‘Hey, how can I help this team?’ “

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There's no doubt Bart still is on the fast track to the big leagues. Giants manager was Bruce Bochy admitted Wednesday, though, that he doesn't expect Bart to make his big league debut this year, in part because of his injury.

To make up for lost at-bats, Haines said Bart could be given an Arizona Fall League assignment after the season.

For now, the Giants will play it safe with their top prospect. From his skills to his intangibles, though, it's clear a healthy Bart will be in the bigs in no time. 

Joey Bart, Mauricio Dubon hit homers in Giants' spring training opener

Joey Bart, Mauricio Dubon hit homers in Giants' spring training opener

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Maybe the finish line of this rebuild isn't as far away as it first seemed.

The Giants waited nearly three hours for the rain to clear Saturday so they could get their Cactus League opener in, and it was worth it when a couple of young hitters stepped to the plate against the Dodgers. Mauricio Dubon went deep to left with his first swing of the spring, and four innings later Joey Bart also smashed a homer to right with his first swing of 2020.

Dubon showed surprising power as a rookie, hitting four homers in 104 at-bats after his promotion from Triple-A. He said he has spent a lot of time this spring working with new hitting coach Donnie Ecker on an adjustment to lower his leg kick, which should allow him to see the ball better. In addition to the solo shot, Dubon had an RBI single to center. 

Bart is in theory here to get reps before heading to Triple-A, but the Giants don't have a locked-in backup catcher and plan to be aggressive with a promotion early in the year if Bart's bat warrants it. Thus far, he's had an impressive camp. 

Bart primarily is working on defensive adjustments and trying to show the ball to umpires more efficiently, but his batting practice sessions have been loud, with the new staff marveling at how easily Bart goes the opposite way. In his first at-bat after replacing Buster Posey, Bart nearly came out of his spikes while lining a shot to right. 

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"It's always good to see Joey stay through the baseball to the right side," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We've seen that swing result since camp began, driving the ball to the air to the right side. It's nice to see that show up in ballgame."

Bart drew a four-pitch walk in his second at-bat to load the bases for Drew Robinson, a non-roster invitee who flied out to left. The Giants lost Kapler's first spring game 10-4.

Five Giants position battles to watch as Cactus League season begins

Five Giants position battles to watch as Cactus League season begins

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As he met with reporters on the first day of camp, Gabe Kapler noticed a few of them trying to read the small writing on his office whiteboard. The new Giants manager laughed and said there was no pertinent roster information written up there. 

Two weeks later, there's not really any more clarity. 

There have been standouts, sure. A home run in live batting practice here, a pitcher lighting up a bullpen's Rapsodo machine there. Kapler has made sure to compliment one or two individual players during nearly every post-workout media session. He likes a positive camp, but also a competitive one. 

The Giants have redesigned basic camp drills to make sure players are competing with each other, but the intensity can't fully ramp up until there's another team on the field. Today, the Giants face the Dodgers (weather permitting), kicking position battles into another gear. Here are five to watch over the next month:

Backup catcher

With Aramis Garcia out for six to eight months, Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly have been working in the same group as Buster Posey. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi acquired two catchers over the final week of his first spring with the Giants and may do it again, but for now, it's Heineman vs. Brantly in the bid to back up Posey. 

Both can hit left-handed, which is a plus, and neither provides much pop, but they're solid defenders who work a count and don't strikeout. Brantly has more big league time and spent last season in Triple-A for Kapler's Phillies, but Heineman can switch-hit. Thus far, it looks like a dead heat. 

Second base

For a guy who came to camp as a non-roster invitee and had two incumbents ahead of him, Yolmer Sanchez sure is getting a lot of time with the other starters during drills. A switch-hitter who won a Gold Glove last year, he looks pretty locked into a spot and could be a nice platoon partner with Mauricio Dubon, who has moved all over the field. 

Dubon is one of the most impressive athletes on the roster, and he has looked remarkably fluid while fielding fly balls. Perhaps that's his ticket because otherwise it gets crowded. Wilmer Flores is a lock to make the team, and with Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria, that makes four infielders before you get to Sanchez, Dubon and Donovan Solano, who had a sneaky-good 2019 but has an option remaining, which could squeeze him out. 

Dubon's ability to play the outfield could allow the Giants to carry all seven infielders, although they'll run into a further crunch when Pablo Sandoval is fully cleared. 

The outfield

Here's what we know: Mike Yastrzemski will be on the team, and Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson look headed for a platoon in left. But that leaves a lot of dudes fighting for two spots, maybe just one if Dubon becomes more of an outfielder.

Jaylin Davis has been talked about a lot and is showing off his power in BP, but there has been some talk of letting him start the year in Triple-A and play every day. Davis is an option in center, though, and if he tears up the Cactus League, he could end up being the starter there quite often. 

Yastrzemski has spent a lot of time doing drills in center, where the Giants also have Steven Duggar and Billy Hamilton. The latter is a hell of a bench option in a world with 26 roster spots. If Hamilton shows anything at the plate, he should be part of an outfield that lacks experience in center and has defensive question marks in left. 

You can see how the math starts to get hairy for some of the younger players. Duggar is making big swing changes and Chris Shaw is working to close a hole, and both have a lot of depth in front of them. Austin Slater has spent much of his time this spring doing infield drills, but there are a ton of bodies at second and Flores is the right-handed bat for the right side of the infield. 

At the end of the spring, it's often an options game, and Slater, Duggar, Shaw and Davis still have them. It wouldn't be a shock to see the Giants go with Yastrzemski, Pence, Dickerson, Hamilton and one more outfielder to start, knowing they'll shake it up by the end of April. 

Fifth starter

The Giants signed Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly as starters, and neither has done anything to lose that status. Gausman had an impressive live bullpen session Friday. 

"What stood out about Gausman's live BP session today was the movement on his breaking ball," Kapler said. "It's a pitch that our pitching coaches are working hard on him to get the shape we want, and he came out firing with that pitch today."

Dereck Rodriguez will start Saturday and Andrew Suarez on Sunday, but Kapler was adamant that nothing should be read into that. Both are internally viewed more as long relievers/bullpen options. 

There are others like Tyson Ross and Trevor Cahill in camp, but after two weeks, it's clear how much this staff thinks of Tyler Beede's ability, and he should enter the spring games as the frontrunner to start one of the first five games of the year. Logan Webb has plenty of fans, too, but he will be on an innings limit this year and those usually are implemented in April, not September. 

The bullpen

The Giants have 31 non-roster invitees in camp and 17 are pitchers. You could literally throw a dart in any direction in the clubhouse and hit a reliever who might make the club. 

Tony Watson is a lock and may become the closer if the Giants have one. The staff is excited about Trevor Gott's stuff and he's out of options, so there's your second reliever. The Giants will carry eight, and after those two it gets hazy.

Farhan Zaidi loves a good roster shuffle, but he also has too much respect for veterans to bring guys in without a real shot. Nearly all of last year's late additions made the squad, including Nick Vincent, who is back. Jerry Blevins comes to mind as someone who has too much experience to simply be here as a camp arm. If those guys throw well, they figure to be ahead of the pack. 

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Jarlin Garcia was picked up late and is out of options, so a solid spring probably puts him on the roster. There are plenty of live arms on the 40-man, but guys like Sam Coonrod, Jandel Gustave and Wandy Peralta have options remaining, and that's a killer in late March. 

Then there's the pack of starters: Rodriguez, Suarez, Ross, Cahill, Trevor Oaks, etc. Could the Giants stash a couple in the bullpen to protect their inventory?

Finally, there's a true wild card, someone who may end up telling us a lot about what's important to the Giants right now. Tyler Rogers had a dominant September, has nothing left to prove in the minors, and is making teammates look silly in live BP. In a merit-based system, he should be headed for the Opening Day bullpen ... but he also has all three options remaining. Will the Giants go with their eight best, or will they prioritize keeping as many arms in the system as they can at the end of camp?