Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
The White Sox thought so little of Leury Garcia coming into this season that even after they had sold Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays, he was still behind Jacob May on the center field depth chart. He was also decidedly behind Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez on the utility infielder pecking order.
But, such is the nature of 2017 that there were plenty of opportunities to go around and Garcia absolutely made the most of them, as May made it very unambiguous that he was not ready. From mid-April, when he began getting regular plate appearances, until mid-June when he started missing time with injury, he hit .305/.349/.466. His K percentage dropped dramatically, while his power spiked. I personally saw him pinch hit and absolutely rope a line drive single off Aroldis Chapman, and then follow it up by blasting a home run off of high-90s heat from Luis Severino later in the series.
The aforementioned injuries started leaking into his season, and it’s hard to tell how much the second half of the season where he started sliding back to earth was pure regression and how much was trying to play while physically compromised.
Even so, this season has to be considered an unmitigated success. Garcia had struggled so mightily in the majors that it was hard to have any expectations, and having played two full seasons in Triple-A and clearly mastered it, this was sort of his last chance to show he could perform above that level.
If Garcia is even a league average bat — he was roughly one this year — he’s an extremely useful player. He can switch hit, play every position — and yes, he can play shortstop and center field well, although he is clearly getting by more on athleticism in center as it isn’t his natural position — except catcher, and pinch run. Pair that with a league average bat and there’s a space on every roster for that player.
Before this year, Garcia was not in the White Sox plans, but he has certainly earned a shot at regular playing time next year to see how real these gains are. Unfortunately, because he was raced to the majors by Texas and the White Sox, he hits his first year of arbitration next year, but because of his versatility it’s not exactly hard to see how he fits onto the roster of a competitor either.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s fun to watch, seems like a popular guy in the clubhouse, and maybe one day we see Leury Garcia being a part of big postseason moments as a beloved veteran supporting part on the next good White Sox team.
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