Catcher Prospect Spotlight: Patrick Bailey
In true ‘best player available’ strategy, at least by their board, the Giants went away from drafting from perceived need and got a well-developed player at the thinnest position in the sport.
A celebrated prospect going into the draft, Bailey was on Team USA three times, the US Collegiate National team the last two years, and the U18 2016 gold medal team. The Giants decided he was the best player on the board and selected him 13th overall last June. At 6’2”, and 207 lbs, and a switch hitter, he ended up signing for $3.80 million, which was $400,000 below slot value for the pick. He’s currently 21 years old (born May 29, 1999) and could reach the majors quickly thanks mostly to his glove, arm, and receiving skills.
Bailey starts with an open stance both left and right-handed, with a moderate front leg kick that extends straight forward, balancing the stance at contact. He does an extra ‘clutch’ or a double backswing from the left side, but the top half is quiet through the full motion. He shows solid-average bat speed from the right side, maybe a tick above from the left. The swing gets through the zone quickly, and while it’s not a traditional uppercut, it is geared towards power in lieu of contact. There is some swing and miss in and out of the zone, but this is a common hit tool for a catcher in today’s game.
Bailey showed a patient approach through college, walking 86 times in 578 career NCAA plate appearances, or a 14.8% walk rate. The career strikeout rate is only 16%, but in his senior year, albeit only 73 plate appearances, that rose to 24.6% as he was possibly selling out for power. There was already some swing and miss in and out of the zone, and it’s likely the strikeout rate will go up in pro ball seeing better control, spin, and using a wooden bat.
As mentioned, Bailey has a power-first mentality, which does profile well at the position in today’s game. His swing is geared to generate power and loft, from both sides of the plate, and he attacks the ball generating a lot of late whip with his hands and wrists. He’s able to hit the ball hard and over the fence from both sides of the plate, though he does tend to stay pull side and occasionally goes up the middle. He graduated high school in 2017 at 175 lbs, and scouts questioned at the time if he’d hit enough to be a prospect. He’s since added over 30 lbs of what appears to be mostly muscle and he does like to flaunt he can hit home runs.
Here's the newest Giant, Patrick Bailey. A catcher and Bat Flip King. pic.twitter.com/20syCdpiaa
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 11, 2020
The power really came on in his senior year, smashing 6 home runs in only 17 games, and a ridiculous .386 ISO, over .100 over his previous career-high. That includes three grand slams hit in an eleven-day span. This is all very impressive but as mentioned he could have been selling out the power, in an attempt to convince scouts the bat has come around. The good news is it appears to be at least potentially average to above average at the highest level.
Speed? Catcher? Nope, nothing to see here. While not as slow as some catchers, Bailey is not going to be stealing bases in the big leagues unless it’s by accident. In his NCAA career, he only attempted two steals, and while he was successful on both, it’s clear speed is not part of his game.
The best defensive catcher in the draft, the glove and arm will almost certainly get Bailey to the majors. An excellent receiver and blocker, Bailey should gain the trust of his pitchers and help them maximize their stuff. When controlling the running game, he has a very quick transfer and release and is able to make strong accurate throws, even when the pitch was difficult to receive. There are pros and cons to a prospect staying at catcher, but there seems to be more polishing to Bailey’s defensive game than there are adjustments.
Bailey profiles as an above-average defensive catcher who’s able to provide adequate power from both sides of the plate, something many teams in baseball are leaning towards these days. I wasn’t surprised Bailey got picked in the top half of the first round and felt better about the pick when he signed below slot. What was a bit surprising was the Giants already have Joey Bart, the #2 overall in 2018, who is a better hitter and has more power, and now made his Major League debut. Bailey is likely the better defender, but Bart is no slouch, and fantasy owners have to worry how many AB there will be to go around? There are reports from the alternate site of both players taking grounders at first base, which may be a way to get both bats in the lineup, and potentially both maintain catcher eligibility too.