Indeed, Doug, it would appear my 100% accurate absolutely positively correct prediction of what the Giants were going to do was, as it turns out, somewhat less than correct. Much, much less than correct.
Instead of all the stuff I talked about yesterday, the Giants used the #13 pick last night on North Carolina State switch-hitting Catcher Patrick Bailey. I HAVE THOUGHTS!
First though, I’d like to say something unrelated to Bailey. It’s related, I suppose, instead, to me. I am not a journalist, or a scout, or anything thing particularly well informed, or really even a writer. What I am, is a fan. A fan with the peculiar habit of sending my thoughts out on a regular basis to other fans like you. Being a fan is an interesting position. A often frustrating position.
We have no agency. If Tom Stoppard were to write a play about baseball, we fans would be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, standing offstage trying to will our own entrance. We swell a scene or two, we provide the background, we make noise (our finest attribute), we spend money, and we give energy to those we cheer on. And through it all we live in the delusion that somehow, someway, if we provide enough noise, enough energy, we might conjure something magical, we might open a portal between imagining… and happening. We might will our desires into being. It’s a frustrating, and often unsatisfying position. Because, of course, we can’t. We can only witness the parade.
But one small consolation that fanning gives us — we have the freedom to hold enthusiasms that are completely unbound by reason. We can, and I do, form illogical obsessions, like for instance, the Giants should always draft the children of former players, a notion that would make for a terrible draft room strategy if my actual livelihood depended on it (though it would have kept Cody Bellinger off the Dodgers! So you choose). And therefore, I can say, that I am sad that Tyler Soderstrom is not, tonight, a Legacy Giant taking the first step to fulfilling his destiny. But that sadness is not meant to demean Patrick Bailey or the value of Patrick Bailey, the pick. And it doesn’t mean that Tyler Soderstrom would have been a great, or even a better, pick. It’s just to say that I was trying to conjure up a bit of magic and poetry last night, and instead was left watching the cold comforts of reality.
Now, with that behind me. Let’s talk about Patrick Bailey. And particularly, let’s talk about Patrick Bailey within the context of the piece I wrote last week about the Dodgers Model. Because Patrick Bailey really fits this notion (and a few others) to a T. Though Bailey has always been known as a strong defensive Catcher he has shown a strong track record of hitting at a level where that really matters. He led all ACC Freshman in hitting (.321), total bases (113), and slugging (.604) while setting a Freshman record for HRs (13). He’s a career .322/.429/.602 hitter at NC State. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate. And he’s shown a very strong control of the strike zone in college. He finished his ACC career with 53 walks and 47 strikeouts, and that ratio got better as his career went along.
In other words he’s a player who controls the zone, has a history of hitting, has versatility (as a switch-hitter). That’s almost exactly the kind of player that I was talking about in that post (and Baseball America was talking about in the post I referred to). In addition, having just turned 21 two weeks ago, Bailey is young for his college class, which is something that we keep hearing teams that rely heavily on models value highly.
I’ve said for years that things we can always predict happening in MLB drafts is that high school players with shiny upside will slide down the board on draft day and proven college performers will move up. Bailey combines that old draft-day truism with a lot of things that modern analytics departments really value. As Andy Baggarly said to me yesterday:
Ignoring the bit about taking a pitcher at the end, I think Bailey fits that profile. He controls the zone. He gets the bat to the ball. And he has power. There is some swing and miss concerns there. And I do think that the double demands of Catching and maintaining two different swings is a profoundly difficult thing to pull off successfully in pro ball. But major league teams value Catchers. And they value college hitters with histories of success.
Likely, the Giants will also be able to shave some slot money off his pick value and potentially go overslot with later picks (as they did consistently last year). But first and foremost, I believe they took the guy they wanted. I suspect that Farhan Zaidi sees something not terribly dissimilar to Will Smith, whom the Dodgers drafted out of Louisville in 2016.
I also think we can draw a few conclusions about the developing organizational philosophy of the new-Giants front office based on this pick:
They like track records
They like certainty of value at the top of the draft
They will be slightly risk averse
They are going to make heavy use of analytical models
Those models weigh age/class heavily
Those models weigh BB/K heavily
Those models weigh hitters over pitchers (see point #3)
I think from 2019/20 we’re starting to see a pattern that will lean safe, college heavy picks in the first round, while saving money for riskier high upside picks in later rounds. Balancing risk and return in a rational manner and going where the data tells them to go. This is a proven path to success. I think this front office also isn’t worried about balancing out their system or trying to strengthen perceived areas of weakness. They’re focussed on adding talent and believe that they’ll be able to find the talent they need to cover gaps when the need arises, either by using their financial resources or their intellectual ones, shopping both on 5th Avenue and in the dumpsters in the alley.
Of course, I also think that I’m less than 24 hours removed from showing my insights to be of limited value, so perhaps I shouldn’t shout too loudly what lessons I think I’m gleaning. But that’s what jumps out to me about this pick.
Welcome Patrick Bailey. It’s ok that you’re a Catcher. Joey Bart isn’t in imminent threat of getting traded. Things will work out. Please enjoy being a Giant! You’ll do great.