For a position that is often a shallow position in the Major Leagues, Catching could very well be the biggest position of depth that the Giants have going into 2021, to no surprise of whomever might be following the system. With two catchers drafted in the top half of the first round, it’s rare for any single position to have that many players with such a draft pedigree at one time, especially since they usually don’t stick around in a system long enough for overlap. For 2022, this list may be quite different, especially with an expected graduation.
So, let’s get into the list.
#1 – Joey Bart
Of all the positional rankings, this should be among the least surprising #1 picks, with the former #2 overall pick having an excellent track record in the minors since being drafted. It’s true that he was left frustrated in his Major League debut in 2020, but he was rushed out of necessity, and cheated out of his expected time at Triple-A. Perhaps Sabean’s protestations about Buster Posey needed time in Triple-A back in 2010 was pretty accurate.
Bart’s pick came after the system hit its lowest peak in decades in 2017, and not coincidentally, Bart has become a symbol of this rebuild that the Giants are going through. It would not be surprising to see his fulltime arrival in the big leagues as a symbol to fans that better times are coming soon. It will also move the next player on this list up into more prominence, and press some questions about what the future holds at the position.
#2 – Patrick Bailey
If you’ve been reading this site since last June, you probably know that I’ve been as doubtful about the use of a first round draft pick on another catcher as anyone, as not being the best use of rare, high-level assets. Still, the Giants do now have significant depth at the backstop position. Whether that is to be used as trade assets, or to split time to protect health is a good question. (I still have doubts about the latter use, especially since Bailey’s biggest asset is his defense, and putting him at first negates that asset.)
With Bailey about to start his career in 2021 in Low-A, the choices that the Giants will make regarding the catching position and two first round picks are still years off. A lot of eyes will be on him, though, both in and out of the system.
#3 – Ricardo Genoves
The dropoff from the top two to here are great, but Genoves is no slouch. His offensive ceiling is far lower than the other two, but there’s no doubt that his defense will carry his career. His ceiling might never be as a lone catching starter, but being a quality and competitive backup is no small thing, and he should be a major leaguer at some point.
Other names to know
The catcher who just missed this list, and is the most likely to be on this list next year is Rayner Santana, who hit ten home runs despite being just 16 in the Dominican Summer League. The Venezuelan catcher is still both very young, and stats in the DSL are difficult to put too much stock in. But it’s going to be very interesting to see how that power develops as he ages, and likely is in the Arizona Rookie League this summer.
Of course, if you aren’t going to put much stock into the DSL, it’s difficult in how to put any stock into a just-signed international free agent with little track record. But it’s worth at least mentioning Panamanian catcher Adrian Sugastey, who was signed in 2019 and has yet to get into a pro game. He got the Giants’ fourth-highest bonus for a hitter in that class, which is not nothing (especially considering how the Giants did with more meager bonuses in the mid-2010’s). He will be 18 for the 2021 season, and it’s unclear if he’ll be in the Dominican Summer League as he would’ve spent 2020, or if he’ll be in Arizona.
It’s also worth mentioning here super utilityman Brett Auerbach, an undrafted free agent the Giants signed after the 2020 draft. He is a rare utility player who not only handles basically every infield position except shortstop and every outfield position including center, which should be Zaidi’s dream versatility. At 5’9”, he’s not a big power hitter, but he is an excellent contact hitter with a lot of walks. He’d be a passable sub in the lineup for players that need a day off and potentially wouldn’t be a zero offensively. Of course, for 2021, the it’ll not only be worth noting how he handles (literally) bigger competition, but also whether or not he sticks at catching at all, or if he drops that before he drops center field from his defensive toolkit.