Through Wednesday’s game in New York, Avisail Garcia ranks 24th on the Baseball Prospectus hitter WARP leaderboard with 0.69, a hair behind Francisco Lindor and a hair ahead of Corey Seager and Kris Bryant; it’s a pretty nice group of guys to be in the middle of. It’s impossible to ignore that the others are MVP caliber, and Garcia isn’t (or more politely, has never shown himself to be), so it’s clear that some regression is in store for Garcia. (PECOTA certainly thinks so; his tAV projection for the rest of the year is .263, up a whopping seven points from his preseason figure. At least he’s above average now.)
So what might that regression look like? Thankfully, it’s not so hard to pick a couple assumptions and recalculate his batting line (currently .423/.483/.654) to see how a less fortunate Garcia would have done in April. As I see it, we have a few main numbers we can play with: BB%, K%, HR%, BABIP, and the outcomes within the hits on balls in play. Let’s pull some levers.
I’m going to be generous to Garcia and assume that he has actually improved his plate discipline, increasing his walk rate to 8.6 percent (up a point from last year) and dropping his K% nearly 5 percent to 20.7. I’m also going to assume that his BABIP, when it declines from its current .514, will land at .320, which is on the high end of plausible and is the number he posted in 2015. Right now, that’s the equivalent of taking seven singles and turning them into outs.
There’s some luck involved in home runs, too. Garcia has three homers in 58 PA, a 5.2 percent HR rate. Let’s make one of those into an out; that leaves a 3.4 percent home run rate, which is still a large tick up from his career rate, but a more plausible one. If we strip out only the obvious luck (i.e., seven singles and a homer) from Avi’s slash line and give him all the credit for the rest, the slash line is now .270/.345/.442.
That line is almost exactly Willson Contreras’s preseason PECOTA line, which works out to a .280 tAV. A .280 tAV and a bad glove in right field is 2016 Kole Calhoun, or 1.7 WARP. On the one hand, that’s pretty good for a guy with 1.3 WARP in 1,550 career plate appearances coming into the season; on the other hand, if the incredibly optimistic take on your age 26 breakout season only gets you that far…you might be Avisail Garcia.
I hope he keeps it up, even in a lost season, because positive surprises are nice, and maybe he brings something back in a trade. In the much more likely event that he doesn’t keep mashing, this ought to be his last round with the White Sox (if the pattern is for the Sox to hold onto guys one year past their sell date, it matches him perfectly), but at least he’ll have had that nice, nice start to the season.
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