Who is less trustworthy to make a fair and honest and realistic assessment of Avisail Garcia‘s progress at this point? The Chicago White Sox or…us? Us being the viewing public that has seen Garcia stumble and struggle and hint at huge potential, but never quite reach it for parts of four seasons, and watched him play a major role–and mostly fail–in doomed attempts to compete in the last two.
With that in mind, Bruce Levine’s late-August report that the Sox were still watching Garcia to get a read on what to do with him going forward was distressing, if not totally mystifying. Garcia had well over 1400 career major league plate appearances at the time of Levine’s report, filled with some hot streaks, some moments of incredible physical dominance, and far longer stretches where he’s looked too flawed and too exploitable by major league pitching to ever succeed.
The Sox reported positioning here would put a so-called Garcia non-believer in an awkward position. Obviously Garcia hitting the daylights out of the ball and proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is a reincarnated Willie McCovey would be ideal, but it would be very difficult for four reasons:
1. Any Garcia progress is likely to be small and gradual, and it would be difficult for him to max out his ceiling at this point.
2. This is far too short of a stretch for Garcia to really show anything definitive, making it all the more troubling to ponder the Sox making a decision based off of it.
3. I cannot claim to be an expert on how reincarnation works, but Willie McCovey was left-handed, and Garcia is right-handed.
4. Willie McCovey is not dead.
The more likely dichotomy was always Garcia showing some promise and stringing together a decent second half, or just horribly flopping, and having to ponder whether the latter was better for the Sox long-term outlook rather than Garcia piecing together a false snapshot where he looks viable.
Amid the White Sox running roughshod over the Rays Monday night to extend their winning streak to three(!!!) games, Garcia probably had the worst night of anyone in the lineup whose name doesn’t rhyme with Slim Cranderson. The 0-for-4 night dropped his second half batting line to .268/.314/.471, which is far from super-stud status, but notable for the first hint of a shift toward power hitting in his game and its total lack of a platoon split. It would fall into the bin of ‘showing some promise and stringing together a decent second half.’
Garcia’s major league career at the plate has been marked by an approach for which his abilities were miscast. He pounded balls into the ground as his frame filled out and his speed waned, he seemed more comfortable spraying singles and trying to hit for average even as exploitable holes in his swing were exposed on the inner half, and regularly just remained a massive man who could not turn his raw strength into power, capped off by a 37-game homerless streak that stretched from from end of May to late-July during this current season.
This new Garcia is not really someone to invest in with all of the family savings, either. His good second half numbers are all of 169 plate appearances, thanks to a disabled list stint and kinda sorta getting benched at times so the Sox could start J.B. Shuck in center field. Garcia also still has beat the ball in the ground at the same sky-high rate (56.9 percent) and has been striking out in a fourth of his appearances, so there’s really no outlet for him to be very productive unless the ball jumps off his bat, which it has (24.1 percent home run/fly ball rate), but mostly just in August. If his home run rate falls from its current top-1o in all of baseball pace, he probably becomes a lot easier to assess (in a bad way). All this has to also be weighed against his defense, which is probably at best decidedly below-average in a corner, which puts a lot of pressure for him to be valuable at the plate.
I am likely not spoiling any surprise to say that I am pretty far away from being a believer still, but the question here is the White Sox, still run by a front office that made Garcia the linchpin of their 2013 rebuild, beset by numerous spots in the lineup they will need to fix to compete in 2017 and a likely limited budget, will cut the cord when they finally have something other than projection in which to place their faith. I would probably have an easier time buying into Garcia than buying into the prospects of his departure.
Lead Image Credit: Ken Blaze // USA Today Sports Images