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Around The Diamond: Catchers

Jan. 30, 2018

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By Wiley Ballard

For any baseball team the intersection between offense and defense, hitting and pitching, batting practice and bullpen sessions can be found in its catcher. The Georgia Tech baseball team finds that to be especially true in 2018 as it returns an all-ACC performer, a first-round talent and a veteran leader all rolled into one.

Starting catcher Joey Bart embarks upon his junior season carrying lofty expectations set by the media and professional baseball alike. The junior is a consensus preseason all-American and a projected first round draft pick come June. No college backstop ranks higher on Baseball America’s Top 200 MLB Draft Prospects list than Bart at number 20.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Bart-Zilla flattened his freshman season totals in 2017 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and a .575 slugging percentage despite missing the final 11 games. His 13 longballs are the most by a full-time Yellow Jacket catcher since Zane Evans in 2013 (who coincidentally begins his first year as an undergraduate assistant this spring). The only returning ACC player who averaged more home runs per game is Wake Forest’s Johnny Aiello.

Defensively, Bart has made 68 starts at catcher over his first two years (in addition to starting all four years for perennial state high school power Buford). In that time Bart has thrown out 40 percent of potential base stealers while handling a youthful pitching staff. Last year two-thirds of Tech’s ACC games were started by freshmen pitchers and eight more by sophomores. That’s why his biggest priority this offseason has been creating chemistry and comfort with each member of the Tech pitching staff.

After losing Bart to injury in early May last year, head coach Danny Hall and his staff will pay close attention to their catcher’s health why utilizing sophomore Kyle McCann to spell him regularly.

McCann, a Lambert High School product, started 15 games at catcher in his true freshman campaign last season, including the final 11 contests. He also displayed defensive versatility logging 19 starts at first base.

While the rookie’s .198 batting average will need to improve in his second season, he did showcase two valuable offensive talents: patience and power. The Suwanee, Ga. native led Tech with 33 walks against 40 strikeouts while posting an on-base percentage of .383. Additionally, McCann’s nine home runs were fourth on the team despite logging only 121 at bats.

Beyond Bart and McCann, Tech welcomes two freshmen catchers from metro Atlanta to The Flats.

Cameron Turley , rated as the state’s No. 8 catcher, arrives via Mill Creek High School where he set the school record for passing yards and passing touchdowns as their starting quarterback. He also earned two all-state selections on the baseball diamond.

Jamie Taylor becomes the latest student-athlete from the Marist School to enroll at Georgia Tech. Taylor was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2017.

Stay tuned later this week as Around The Diamond examines the Yellow Jacket infield prior to Opening Day on Feb. 16!


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