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Avisail Garcia's identity crisis leaves White Sox an outfielder short

Offense from right fielder was lacking because his offensive profile is all over the place

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to get excited about the White Sox' rumored interest in Todd Frazier, for reasons that have nothing to do with the Cincinnati third baseman himself.

For one, the rumor has simmered at the same temperature on the hot stove for about a week. Also, he's not an outfielder, and it'd be comforting to start hearing about those possibilities at some point, especially after going through The Bill James Handbook 2016.

I could've devoted a whole post to what it said about Avisail Garcia*, and none of it was flattering. In Sunday's post, I only mentioned him once, noting that he and Alexei Ramirez were tied for the worst baserunning scores on the team.

Each player accounted for 15 bases lost by their baserunning metric, but through different means:

  • Garcia: -8 bases running, -7 bases stealing.
  • Ramirez: --18 bases running, +3 bases stealing.

That's a startling breakdown -- in both senses -- for Ramirez, as he finished nine bases in the black last year, but it's the result of a convergence of factors that add up. He was a little worse at stealing bases, a lot worse at getting on base, and he had worse hitters behind him. The combination of those last two elements means he only could only take nine extra bases over the course of the season, and his five baserunning outs more than negated the value of bases taken.

It wasn't a good baserunning season, but the White Sox' extreme offensive deficiencies exacerbate that score to a significant degree outside of Ramirez's control. In a different lineup, he might be closer to zero.

Garcia, on the other hand, has more of a bull-in-a-china-shop approach to the basepaths. He took 23 extra bases, which is good. He also ran into eight outs -- seven advancing, once doubled off -- which is problematic. Then you look at his 7-for-14 performance stealing bases, and one gets the idea that somebody thinks Garcia is faster than he is.

Like Ramirez, you might have to account for a generally poor offense forcing baserunners -- or the third-base coach -- to take more chances than they normally would. But I raise this issue because the deeper you delve into the Handbook, the worse Garcia grades out. He's all over the leaderboards, but only in the bad categories.

  • Defensive runs saved: Finished with the third-lowest score among right fielders at -11.
  • Groundball-to-flyball ratio: Ninth-highest in the AL (1.83), right below Adam Eaton (1.86), who is supposed to stay close to the ground.
  • Swing-and-miss percentage: He whiffs on 30.4 percent of the pitches he swings at, which is the eighth-worst.
  • First-pitch swing percentage: He swung at 44.6 percent of first pitches, which was second in the AL.
  • RBI percentage: He cashed in just 27.4 percent of his RBI opportunities, which is again good for the ninth-lowest.
  • BPS on OutZ: That's batting average plus slugging on pitches out of the zone, and Garcia had the ninth-lowest (.375).

Taken independently, appearances on these lists aren't damning because they all contain effective offensive players -- sluggers, happy hackers, speed guys.

The last stat is particularly troubling, and kinda sums up the underlying issue with Garcia. He doesn't make much of an impact on pitches outside of the zone, but that doesn't stop him from swinging recklessly at them. FanGraphs tells us that he swung at 46.6 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, which is the third-highest chase rate in the American League.

Now, go back to his baserunning and try and combine all these facts into a cohesive profile. You end up with a guy who swings and misses like a power hitter, chases pitches like a guy with great plate coverage, drives in runs like a slap hitter, takes chances on the basepaths like a speedster and covers ground like a bat-first guy, and he isn't any of those things.

Given the inefficiency all over his game, he should probably be worse than he was. That's a testament of sorts to his unique physical profile. Also to his .320 BABIP, but he wouldn't have one if he couldn't muscle and leg out singles created by the lack of loft in his swing.

If he could somehow remove that vulnerability against inside fastballs -- and if there's anything to the month-by-month increase in walks besides the low bar at the start -- he could have a strangely effective triple-slash line, which is why he's still a compelling figure to some as he enters his age-25 season.

But if the White Sox are looking at competing in 2016 with all of these better outfielders on the open market, it doesn't make much sense to rely on Garcia to click, because he'll have to click several times to iron out the multiple ways he undermines his own contributions.

Long story short, this rumor is welcome, even if I'm more of a Justin Upton guy, and even if Jim Bowden is among the sketchier of mainstream sources:

(*And so I did.)