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Perrotto: Perhaps Home Cooking Will Give Pirates a Steal

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Joey Bart, Pittsburgh Pirates

Joey Bart was a can’t-miss draft pick. Except he has missed.

The San Francisco Giants chose Bart with the second overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft. They expected the Georgia Tech star to be the heir apparent to franchise catcher Buster Posey.

Posey has been retired for three seasons, but Bart never took his place. The Giants gave up on Bart this week when they traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates after designating him for assignment.

Few players in recent memory could use a change of scenery more than Bart.

The 27-year-old played 162 games over four seasons for the Giants from 2020-23, one full season’s worth of games. He never came close to justifying his draft position.

Bart hit .219/.288/.335 with 11 home runs. He also had minus-6 defensive runs saved and threw out just 19% of runners attempting to steal.

So why would the Pirates even have an interest in Bart? Well, for one, they are hoping he can recapture his college form.

The Giants weren’t reaching when they took Bart at No. 2. He was universally considered one of the top players in his draft class after hitting .322/.407/.544 with 30 home runs in 144 career games at Georgia Tech.

This spring, Bart shined in Cactus League play. He went 12 for 29 (.414) with a double and seven walks.

Bart has talent. As scouts like to say, if you’ve seen it once in a player then you know it’s in there.

The problem is the Giants couldn’t get Bart to maximize his talent. It’s not the first time this has happened with a high draft pick, and it won’t be the last.

Perhaps it will be different for Bart with the Pirates. He will back up Henry Davis while Jason Delay and Yasmani Grandal are on the injured list.

The Pirates are taking a low-risk gamble. They gave up only one player in the trade, minor-league right-hander Austin Strickland, who was their eighth-round draft pick last year.

If Bart doesn’t work out, the Pirates still have good catching depth throughout the organization.

Davis was selected first overall in the 2021 draft. Highly touted prospect Endy Rodriguez made his major-league debut last season. He was the presumptive starter for 2024 before sustaining an elbow injury while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic that required surgery.

Perhaps, the fact that the change of scenery for Bart is coming in Pittsburgh could be an extra boost. Though he grew up in the Atlanta area, most of the family on his father’s side lives in Western Pennsylvania.

His father, Tommy Bart, was an outstanding athlete at Burrell High School. He scored five touchdowns in a game as a football player in 1977 against Leechburg and the Pirates chose him in the 29th round of the 1979 draft as a pitcher, though he did not sign.

This isn’t a move where the Pirates think they have found their catcher of the future. It’s taking a flier on a player who might have some upside.

Maybe getting some home cooking will do Bart some good.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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