Top Giants prospect Joey Bart is just trying to be himself.
As the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, the expectations for Bart are massive. A first-team All-American and the winner of the Johnny Bench Award (nation's best college catcher) at Georgia Tech as a junior, Bart gave the Northwest League a glimpse at why all the buzz surrounds him.
Bart belted 13 home runs with an OPS of .983 in 45 games for the Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, but he wants to put all the comparisons to his big-league counterpart, Giants All-Star catcher Buster Posey, on hold.
"I go out here and try to be the best version of myself and the best teammate," Bart said. "I don't put any pressure on myself, and I feel those [comparisons to Posey] are kind of ridiculous. Buster is a Hall of Famer."
Being himself worked out just fine since he joined the Volcanoes on July 4. In his first professional game, Bart clubbed a pair of dingers against the D-backs affiliate in Hillsboro en route to a 3-for-5 day at the plate with four RBIs and nine total bases. It was quite a debut for Bart considering Hillsboro finished the season with the best record in all of short-season baseball, 51-25, and Bart had played just a handful of Rookie-level game with the AZL Giants.
"To think about that day now, it seems so long ago," Bart said. "Coming in on the Fourth of July and hitting some homers and beating the best team in the league -- it couldn't have been better than that."
Salem-Keizer beat the Hops, 15-1, and Bart went on to have 16 multi-hit games and finished his year with a .298 batting average and .613 slugging percentage. Had he met the requirement of 2.7 plate appearances per team game, his slugging percentage would have led the Northwest League.
After the loud introduction to the NWL, Bart said the grind of the schedule can wear you down, and at that point it's all in your head.
"You know you're not going to feel that great sometimes, but you gotta give it all you have that day," Bart said. "It's basically just training your mind to get ready every day. That has been the biggest thing for me -- not really being worried about results, but more of the process."
The Volcanoes finished out of the NWL playoff picture, so Bart's season ended Monday in a 9-7 loss to Hillsboro, in which he went 2-for-4 with a solo home run in the first inning.
Wherever he goes, he knows there will be a lot of attention and mounting expectations. His signing bonus was $7.025 million, a record for a position player, and he was the first catcher drafted in the first round by the Giants since Posey was taken fifth overall in 2008. The investment the Giants made is undoubtedly a big one, but if this first stint in pro ball is any indication, he'll be just fine.
Playoff ready: The regular season is over and the NWL playoff field is set. The Hillsboro Hops ran away with the second-half South Division title on their way to the best record in Short Season and the highest winning percentage in all of Minor League Baseball. The Hops, who also won the first half, will take on last year's league champs, the Eugene Emeralds. It's the fifth straight playoff appearance for the Hops, and the third time the Emeralds and Hops will face off in the best-of-3 semifinals. In the North, Everett takes on Spokane. The winners of each series will meet for the NWL title in a best-of-5 series.
Award winners: Spokane slugger Curtis Terry was named the NWL Player of the Year. Terry led the league with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs, and he finished atop the league in slugging at .606 and second in on-base percentage at .434. His .337 batting average ranked third in the league, and he also won the Northwest-Pioneer All-Star home run derby in Grand Junction, Colorado. Hillsboro's Shawn Roof was named the league manager of the year after guiding the Hops to division titles in both halves, and the best record in Short Season baseball at 51-25 -- a franchise record for wins.