Atlanta – This would have been a trip home for Joy Bart. Growing up about 40 miles northeast of Truist Park, Bart grew into a top high-school prospect, then earned a pedigree on Georgia Tech’s downtown campus that earned the Giants their highest-ever since Will Clarke. Convinced to make a draft pick.
Those inside the organization still see Bart as their own catcher of the future. But there is a reason why he is not with the team on this journey. His failures were just piling up on the plate. Forty-five percent of his plate performance ended in strikeouts, the highest rate among the majors at the time of his relegation.
This was not a permanent position for a team with playoff aspirations, nor for a youngster who was being asked to make adjustments on the fly while managing a major league pitching staff.
“When you’re in a fight every night, it’s hard to make those adjustments because you have to perform,” said hitting coach Justin Veale, who spent the week before the Giants hit the road and Bart played Triple-A Sacramento. Reported to implement the development plan once to get the promising backstop back on track.
“But we found Joey in a really cool place where he didn’t have to perform every night. He could actually work on some of the things we wanted to work on.”
Bart took four days to clear his head, then worked with Vieille for three days. Clarke, who moves around the team as a special assistant, also hoped to hold talks with Bart, something manager Gabe Kapler encouraged.
In Wiley’s estimation, psychics and mechanics alike take the blame for Bart’s strikeout. The club hopes that the vacation time will help him overcome mental barriers, and is confident that some mechanical changes may have a downstream effect as well.
Wiel noticed flaws in Bart’s set-up in the box, which led to an inefficient swing path. His stance was very wide, very straight. He was rocking back as he loaded, resulting in his arms lifting up and his knees driving his swing instead of his hips.
As a catcher, Bart is used to sitting. Willey suggested that he try something similar in the batsman’s box.
“We want him to feel like he was bending his knees, like going down for a squat,” Viel said. “Getting some stability in his set-up from there helps balance the backside, where the knee rests on top of the leg. …we wanted to kill backshift as much as we could. …Mainly, it was set up hit, getting a little stronger in his base and shedding some pointless movement.
Many of these tweaks, Wiel said, the coaching staff saw during his tenure with the club in 2020, when Buster Posey pulled out of the pandemic-shortened season. Bart then hit 37% and ran less frequently than it did this year. But he felt it was important to give the youngster a runway to do what was comfortable.
Part of that was revealed in the toe-tap that Bart added, then removed, then added, then removed.
“There were some things that we also saw in 2020, where we were like, yes, we should probably make some adjustments here,” Wiel said. “But you do want to give him a runway to make him feel confident and comfortable with the things he does and what he wants to do. … When you have such a clear long view, as we do, For a player, we want him to create a routine, practice right, train right because we want him to do that for the next five, 10, 15 years, whatever. We want that Let him build that foundation.”
Bart was doing himself no favors, falling on a two-strike count in 75 of his 108 trips to the plate. In those bats, he recorded only four hits at an average of .060. Those conflicts, Vieille believes, may blend into each other.
“I guarantee that if he was pitching more often instead of returning quick-count pitches, the mechanics would probably clear up,” Wiel said. “I think people get frustrated. Like, if you miss a pitch 0-0 and you’re 0-1, you’re like, well, why do I miss that? So maybe that next time you try to do more and you swing again and miss or you do it wrong, like, do I have a little more to catch the ball in front? Like, why can’t I square these Am? and then it starts spinning around in your head.”
Bart has only had one game since reporting Sacramento, going 2-for-4 with a walk — and no strike — in Sunday’s 12-1 victory. There is no timeline for him to rejoin the Giants; The focus is back on player development, not receiving player contributions at the main league level.
Wiel, who handed Bart to Triple-A hitting coach Damon Minor, watched the video. He texted Bart after the game on Sunday and received reports from River Cats staff. He already sees signs of improvement.
“It looked really cool,” said Wiel. “Like all hitters, it’s kind of a puzzle. … I felt like we had a good plan for Joe, and we sent him off, and he’s in good hands. Now we just keep the dialogue going. “