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Avisail Garcia cements offseason tradition

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Weight loss cited for third straight year

MLB: Spring Training-San Diego Padres at Chicago White Sox
Avisail Garcia from last spring.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not as strong, detailed and layered as Gordon Beckham’s unfortunate offseason tradition, but Avisail Garcia has his own little streak going. Here’s James Fegan relaying the latest iteration:

Over the winter, Garcia said he dropped 14 pounds (Down to 254), got in over 120 at-bats in Venezuelan winter league, played every position in the outfield, and took just two weeks of vacation the whole time. [...]

“I can run better like this. I can play better defense like this. I can hit better like this. I just have to keep working and lose a little bit more.”

If this sounded familiar to you, it should. It’s more or less what he said in 2015 ...

Garcia smiled and guessed that he dropped about 15 pounds but wasn't as worried about the total as much as how getting prepared will help him.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym. I have to be ready for Spring Training," Garcia said. "I can't go there and be fat. So that's what happens. I know I'm skinny." [...]

... and then talked around in 2016, when beat writers asked if he’d dropped some weight.

Garcia instead exhibited a quiet confidence, looking to be in excellent shape and somewhere around 20 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season.

Garcia loses 15 pounds every winter, more or less. This isn’t anywhere nearly as annoying as Beckham’s annual preseason self-affirmation, because he had to resort to knocking those around him to preserve his bubble. Garcia, on the other hand, has a huge frame, and staying in running weight is something that is probably a big part of his offseason agenda. Showing up slimmer and triggering a similar storyline is kinda irritating, but that’s not his fault.

It’s also better than the alternative, which is showing up at his August weight with complete confidence about the way his career’s been going. If you remember the “pounds of muscle” post from five years and a day ago, it all comes from the same place — a way to voice commitment to improvement by players who need to improve. Beckham’s wrong career turn was what inspired that post.

Garcia’s been backed up against the ropes just the same, but it’s not for a lack of trying. It’s for a lack of a swing that elevates pitches (especially breaking stuff) -- again, not for a lack of trying with Todd Steverson — and the lack of strike-zone judgment that makes him even more approachable to pitchers, and the lack of route-running instincts to make up for his offensive shortcomings.

His flaws have a history of acutely nullifying his strengths. You can see this tendency even in his contact profile. He managed to lay off more pitches outside the zone in 2016, but he went back to hitting more grounders than any other Sox, without the amount of infield singles he used to eke out.

Avisail Garcia contact cues

Year PA GB% IFH O-Swing Contact
Year PA GB% IFH O-Swing Contact
2014 190 56.2 5 41.1 66.3
2015 601 48.8 22 45.2 70.5
2016 453 55 8 39.9 68.6

He still busted it out of the box as always, but he couldn’t find as many extra singles that way, and trying to regain those hits is a losing proposition since speed peaks early. His success rides on him being able to regularly access the power that results in the occasional orgasmic homer...

... but ‘twas ever thus.

With one more season resembling regular play, Garcia will elapse 2,000 plate appearances with the White Sox, so this is probably it. Unlike Beckham, who needed 2,900 before the White Sox gave up on him (the first time), Garcia’s last stand won’t be at the expense of more deserving players.

Rick Renteria said Garcia will be the first in line for right field with some at-bats coming at DH, and that’s what the depth chart foretold. So did the first injury of spring training, for that matter. The stress reaction in Charlie Tilson’s foot hasn’t yet upended the order in center field, but it revealed how thin the outfield is, giving a similarly thin Garcia one last chance to grow. In the good way.