Arizona Fall League

Giants' Joey Bart looks for better luck after season cut short by injuries

Giants' Joey Bart looks for better luck after season cut short by injuries

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants put Joey Bart's locker a few feet away from Buster Posey's in their new clubhouse. Their young hitting coaches surrounded the cage when Bart took batting practice Wednesday, and a couple went over with words of encouragement once he was done depositing baseballs onto the berm in right-center. Despite an obvious need at backup catcher, the plan remains for Bart to start the year in Triple-A and get more reps. 

A top prospect -- and Bart is one of the best in the game -- is watched closely every step of the way and has every part of his development plan mapped out. But sometimes you also need to be lucky, or in Bart's case, simply avoid getting unlucky.

Before the first Giants workout of the spring, Bart said he's excited for what's ahead, eager to learn and confident Gabe Kapler has the organization headed in the right direction. He should be a big part of that future -- if opposing pitchers can just stop hitting the hands that can do so much damage to fastballs. 

Bart missed six weeks in Advanced A-ball early last season when he was hit by an inside pitch and fractured the second metacarpal in his left hand. His demolition of the Arizona Fall League was halted months later when another inside pitch fractured his right thumb. 

Bart spent part of his first full day in camp talking about those experiences, and the sobering knowledge that there's little he can do to prevent it from happening again. There's only so much protection a hitter can wear on his hands while staying able to swing freely. 

"You're going to get hit again," Bart said. "Hopefully I don't get hit on the hand again, but I can't control that obviously."

There are ways you can try to limit risk. The Giants over the years have kept veterans out of some spring games that were going to be heavy on low-minors pitching. Command gets better at the upper levels of the minors, and in theory, Bart should be at less risk in Triple-A and, possibly as soon as this summer, the big leagues. 

But the Arizona Fall League is full of hard-throwing prospects who don't quite know where the ball is going, and that's a dangerous combination when you're told to throw inside. 

In that final AFL game, Bart already had been hit once and brushed back twice. He was hit on the hand in his third plate appearance and the bench exploded. Pitching coach Steve Kline, who will work in Double-A for the Giants this season, had to be held back as he yelled at the young Pirates prospect who drilled Bart. Kline said Wednesday that he was so upset because the Pirates teach their pitchers to throw hard and in at every level and it often leads to injuries for other young players. 

"Everybody says pitch in, but you have to know how to pitch in so you can get the guy out away," Kline said. "Guys just throw in and in and in."

[RELATED: Takeaways from Gabe Kapler's first day]

Bart's Scorpions teammates later threw at a member of the other team and the sides exchanged words when the game was over. Bart said he knew right away that his season was over after another bad break. 

"Especially in the Fall League I saw a lot more pitches inside," Bart said. "I think that's just because, from what I hear, that's kind of what the Pirates, their thing is. That's what my teammates told me, that when they faced them in Double-A that's all they did and they just hit people left and right and their philosophy is hard in. It's great, it's definitely hard to hit, but if you can't do it right it obviously puts it in a different ballgame. They were throwing in there hard, and very uncompetitive pitches. The one that hit me was going to hit me in the head if I didn't somehow get out of the way."

Bart is used to taking a beating between the lines. He is a catcher, after all. But last year's experience doesn't seem to have lingered mentally or physically at all. He put on a show in BP in the afternoon, showing the opposite-field strength that is his hallmark. Bart said his plan at the plate hasn't changed.

"Just go in the box looking for my pitch to hit," he said, "And try to get out of the way."

Giants' Joey Bart showcased star potential in Arizona Fall League

Giants' Joey Bart showcased star potential in Arizona Fall League

Joey Bart entered the Arizona Fall League with one of the hottest bats in baseball, at any level. His stick stayed scorching hot in the desert, too, until an injury kept him out of the lineup. 

Bart, the Giants' top prospect, was named the Eastern League Player of the Week to end the regular season. He hit .538 with a homer, four doubles, a triple and six RBI in his final seven games of the regular season to end a 22-game stint in Double-A. 

Coming into the AFL, Bart had a chance to compare himself with some of the best young talent in all of baseball. All it took was one game to show the Giants could truly have a star in the near future. Bart went deep not once but twice in his Fall League debut. 

Before fracturing his hand for the second time this season when he was hit by a 96 mph fastball on his right thumb, Bart was perhaps the most impressive hitter in the desert. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft hit .333 with four homers and 10 RBI in 10 games. He had a .524 on-base percentage, .767 slugging percentage and an eye-popping 1.290 OPS. 

Despite missing nearly half the games, Bart led the Scottsdale Scorpions in homers and walks (nine) while finishing second in RBI. Before his injury, Bart won Player of the Week to open the league, was awarded the Championship Chains Hitter of the Week Award and was named to the Fall Stars Game.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic that Bart could start next season in Triple-A Sacramento. Zaidi also has expressed his desire for Bart to learn another position besides catcher. The AFL could have been the perfect time to experiment and add positional versatility to Bart's game, but that didn't happen due to his injury. 

Outside of Bart, however, Giants hitting prospects struggled in the Fall League. Fellow top prospect Heliot Ramos hit just .185 with one homer and no Giants prospect besides Bart hit over .200. 

[RELATED: How Giants' Webb learned on, off field during rookie season]

The only other bright spot for a handful of Giants prospects who continued their season in Arizona was pitcher Tristan Beck, who looks like a future big leaguer after being acquired from the Braves at the MLB trade deadline for Mark Melancon. Beck, a former Stanford standout, had a 3.63 ERA over six starts and struck out 23 batters in 22 1/3 innings. 

Bart was joined by four other top 100 prospects on his team alone in the AFL, along with former No. 1 overall draft pick Mickey Moniak. It didn't take long and it didn't end how he hoped, but Bart clearly stood out on quite the bright stage.

A's prospect Greg Deichmann shows off his power in Arizona Fall League

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USATSI

A's prospect Greg Deichmann shows off his power in Arizona Fall League

Greg Deichmann's power is what intrigued the A's so much ahead of the 2017 MLB Draft. The left-handed-hitting outfielder hit 19 homers as a junior at LSU and 11 the season before, prompting Oakland to grab him in the second round of the draft two years ago.

This year in the Arizona Fall League, Deichmann's power returned. 

Deichmann, 24, led all of the AFL with nine home runs over 23 games for the Mesa Solar Sox. He hit .256 with a .347 on-base percentage and .634 slugging percentage, good for an impressive .982 on-base percentage.

While Deichmann has light-tower power, his first long ball of the fall that had just enough juice to clear the wall is what truly stood out to him. 

"It was a cutter that I hit to left-center," Deichmann said to MiLB.com's Sam Dykstra. "It was a reminder to me that I'm locked in. When I can go the other way with authority, I know I'm right. And it also showed me that I can do that type of homer in this league."

Deichmann started off his minor league career strong, belting eight homers with a .915 OPS in 46 games at Class A Short Season Vermont after the A's selected him in 2017 draft, but took a tumble a year later. As he dealt with hand injuries, the powerful outfielder struggled mightily in the hitter-friendly California League. 

Over 47 games with the Stockton Ports, Deichmann batted a lowly .199 with six homers. 

"It wasn't until the offseason that I could get my swing right, and really, it wasn't even until spring training when I started to find it again," Deichmann said to Dykstra. "It was about three months of the year lost in Stockton, and I had to jump back into the spring at a full go without many at-bats (166), all broken up."

[RELATED: Why shortstop Puason ranks as A's No. 6 top prospect] 

Despite the down year, the A's still promoted Deichmann to Double-A Midland last season. He didn't exactly dominate with a .219 batting average and .675 OPS, but Deichmann did play a career-high 80 games -- though he missed two months with a Grade 3 AC joint sprain -- and hit a career-high 11 homers. 

A fully healthy Deichmann will be a name to watch next year as he showed in the AFL. His key is staying on the field, and when he does, get ready for a souvenir in the outfield bleachers.

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