When the San Francisco Giants selected Joey Bart with the second overall pick in the 2018 Amateur MLB Draft, it seemed like he was the heir apparent to legend Buster Posey. Bart's raw power and defense were his calling cards, and the hope was that his overall hit tool would develop. Fantasy baseball managers were ecstatic about the potential next big thing behind the dish for fantasy purposes. However, at the major league level, Bart has been more bust than boom thus far. When looking at fantasy baseball rankings for this season, Bart is outside the top 20 fantasy baseball catchers being drafted. This leads us to the question: Is Bart a fantasy baseball breakout candidate in 2023 or, perhaps, is he a worthwhile value catcher at his fantasy baseball ADP? Let's take a deeper dive into the Giants' catcher in the latest fantasy baseball player spotlight article and examine some 2023 MLB projections. Don't forget to check out Fantasy Alarm's FREE Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide to fully prepare for those upcoming fantasy baseball drafts.
2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight
Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants
Bart progressed relatively quickly through the minors, posting respectable offensive numbers. The raw power was never the concern, but the Giants had to be thrilled with some of the offensive metrics he was posting along the way, most notably in terms of his batting average at Double-A and Triple-A.
However, that leads us to the numbers in the final row of the chart above, which have been the biggest concern for Bart as a young player. The quality of his contact isn’t exactly the issue, but more so the quantity of it. When he does make contact, it’s hard not to get excited about his 10.1% barrel rate, 43% hard-hit rate, and 95th-percentile max exit velocity from last season. However, a strikeout rate near 40%, a swinging strike rate of 16.9%, and a 64% contact rate will humble you quickly.
Of players with at least 250 plate appearances last season, Bart’s 64% contact rate was tied for the fifth-lowest in Major League Baseball, his 16.9% swinging strike rate was the 20th-worst, and his 38.5% strikeout rate was the third-worst. Furthermore, of players with at least 250 plate appearances, here are some of the players with similar contact metrics to Bart:
Courtesy of FanGraphs
Okay, so he whiffs a lot and strikes out at an alarming rate, but why? Can it be rectified? There’s optimism for it, but he must improve against non-fastballs. In 2022, Bart hit .295 against fastballs, but just .120 and .128 against breaking pitches and offspeed stuff, respectively. Oh, he also posted whiff rates of 42.1% and 51.5% against breaking and offspeed stuff respectively. Do you think opposing pitchers picked up on it? You bet they did.
After an excellent month of August where he hit .328, he saw more breaking stuff than ever before in September of last year – resulting in a .172 average and 44.4 percent strikeout rate over his final 19 games. Pitchers absolutely had their way with Bart, especially when he fell behind in the count. Take a look at Bart’s numbers, simply by the results following the first pitch:
Courtesy of FanGraphs
In terms of wOBA (and wOBA alone), if the count started at 1-0, he was Jose Altuve (.397 wOBA) or Freddie Freeman (.393 wOBA). But when he fell behind 0-1, he was the worst hitter in baseball by a substantial margin. It appears that he got antsy or was pressing when he fell behind, and pitchers could exploit his biggest weakness – breaking stuff.
|Behind in Count|
|Ahead in Count|
Courtesy of FanGraphs
A breakout season for Bart in 2023 has to begin with a drastic improvement against non-fastballs, and confidence when behind in the count. However, that’s not all.
When do we start talking about Bart's struggles against lefties? As a right-handed hitter, he should exploit the platoon advantage vs southpaws. Instead, he posted a .182 average and 41.7% strikeout rate against left-handed pitchers. Is this the end of the world? No, but this is something he needs to take advantage of, especially if the Giants remain vigilant with their platoons. The team could opt to use Blake Sabol, a left-handed hitter, against righties if he makes the team. Ultimately, it’s not the end of the world if Bart doesn’t hit lefties, but he will need to stop giving the Giants reasons to not include his name on the lineup card.
At his current ADP, Bart is being drafted outside of the top 20 catchers and 350 players overall. The tools and talent are there, but the MLB and fantasy baseball production has yet to come through. The reports are a bit ominous coming out of Giants camp in that a starting gig, let alone a roster spot, is not guaranteed for Bart. Being “out of runway” has popped up a bit and isn't good to hear.
I want to believe in the talent, and I want to believe that the former first-rounder can figure things out. However, the book is out there on Bart. He’ll need to make adjustments to show that he can hit non-fastballs and make contact at a higher clip. Until that happens, the strikeout rate will remain inflated, his contact rate will be porous, and therefore, his batting average plummets – making him just another catcher in fantasy baseball with solid power who drains your batting average.
Perhaps the comments out of camp are just to light a fire under his you-know-what. In terms of name pedigree, Bart is head and shoulders above the rest of his competition in San Fran. Still, at some point, production has to follow suit. He has the raw power to hit for 20+ homers and get the average closer to .230-.240, but I’m not betting on seeing that in 2023 – making Bart an upside dart throw C2 for me in fantasy.
Our fantasy baseball projections have Bart hitting .234 with 14 home runs and 62 RBI across nearly 550 at-bats this season. Assuming he doesn’t get hit by a single pitch, he’s projected for 584 plate appearances, and with his projected 190 strikeouts, that comes out to a 32.5% strikeout rate. Bart will need the volume to reach these numbers, and a hot start to the spring is imperative to that. However, if he has a slow start in Spring Training, the pessimism will grow and he even may open the year in the minors. All in all, there’s a considerable risk to drafting Bart for fantasy baseball before even discussing the contact issues that have plagued him thus far.
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Related Fantasy Baseball Links:
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide
- 2023 Fantasy Baseball MLB Preseason Projections
- 2023 MLB Fantasy Baseball Rankings