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Leury Garcia leads notable White Sox winter ball performances

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His health will go along way to make center field watchable early on

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

There’s not a whole lot to be gleaned from offseason baseball performances, whether they take place stateside in Arizona or over the winter in the Caribbean.

They are valuable for confirming the health or existence of players about whom you weren’t certain.

Case in point: C.J. Retherford.

OK, maybe he’s not the best example of winter ball’s usefulness from this distance, but veterans of the White Sox blogging circuit might be amazed to discover he’s still at it. The club-footed former favorite of Hawk Harrelson peaked in pro ball as a 23-year-old in Birmingham back in 2009, but there he is at age 32, hitting .247/.345/.399 for Aguilas after posting an .833 OPS for two Mexican League teams.

But let’s try this again for a more general White Sox audience.

Case in point: Leury Garcia.

Garcia joined the Dominican Winter League not long after it started, and he’s had staying power. He’s hitting .328/.359/.508 with three walks to 10 strikeouts over 61 at-bats with Gigantes del Cibao, and that already includes at least some regression after a blazing start.

The production is important because it allows Garcia to keep getting playing time (Caribbean teams play to win in their leagues, so they don’t have high tolerance of rust or injuries). The playing time is important because it shows that Garcia is past the hand injuries that derailed a breakout season in mid-June, forcing everybody to settle for “still, better than expected.”

Garcia’s season splits like this:

  • Before first DL trip: .289/.338/.450, 17.7% K rate over 198 PA
  • After first DL trip: .239/.280/.385, 25.6% K rate over 125 PA

A lot of that second line could be mere regression, as Garcia never hinted at the first line’s levels with his track record. Still, any overall adequacy is valuable to this depth chart when it comes with decent defense in center field, to say nothing of potential above-averageness.

Until spring training rolls around, the more he plays for first-place Cibao, the more we can calibrate expectations that Charlie Tilson won’t be rushed, and Adam Engel won’t be crushed. At least not until Garcia gets hurt again.

When factoring in the positive health implications, Garcia has provided the best news out of winter for the White Sox. Eloy Jimenez is a close second. The Sox’ top hitting prospect crushed DWL competition to the tune of a .368/.443/.676 line over 19 games before the White Sox cashed made him cash in all winnings.

The other performances of note extracted from the entire organizational list:

Luis Alexander Basabe: Lasted just six games with Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting .176/263/.235.

Willy Garcia: Hitting .287/.326/.345 with five walks to 18 strikeouts over 25 games for Leones del Escogido in the DWL.

Yermin Mercedes: Getting a ton of playing time behind the plate for Licey in the DWL, with a .301/.374/.398 line and 11 walks to 16 strikeouts over 93 at-bats. He’s also making headlines with his theatrics:

Daniel Palka: Hit .278/.350/.426 for Magallanes in the VWL before his season ended on Nov. 29.

Gregory Infante: Has pitched 4 23 innings over five sporadic appearances with La Guaira in his homeland of Venezuela, with nine hits and a walk to just four strikeouts.

Juan Minaya: Holding it down for Cibao, posting a 3.75 ERA with 12 strikeouts to 15 baserunners over 12 innings.

Jose Ruiz: The newly acquired righty is getting plenty of extra work with Magallanes. Over 19 games, he has a 3.94 ERA with 15 hits and six walks to 12 strikeouts over 16 innings.