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Deep Dive: right field edition, part 3

Avi Garcia: his past, present and future with the White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles
Transitional Celebration: Avi Garcia had a frustrating 2018 season. Will it be his last full one with the Sox?
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

This article delves into the historical career of Avi Garcia through 2017, his most recent season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the White Sox organization.

Avi García — how did he get here?

García, a native of Venezuela, received a $200,000 signing bonus from the Detroit Tigers on July 6, 2007, as a 16-year-old. He successfully moved up the ranks in the Tigers system, eventually debuting on Aug. 31, 2012. Despite the year García was having in AAA Toledo in 2013, he was bounced back and forth from from Toledo to Detroit, as the Tigers were in the midst of a pennant chase.

As of July 30 that year, he was slashing .374/.410/.537 for the Mud Hens while also slashing .241/.273/.373 for the Tigers. On that date, he was traded to the White Sox as part of a three-way deal. The White Sox received García from the Tigers in addition to Cleulius Rondon, Frankie Montas and J.B. Wendelken from the Red Sox; the White Sox sent Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox; the Red Sox sent Jose Iglesias to the Tigers, and the Tigers sent Brayan Villarreal to the Red Sox.

After the trade, García produced well in both Charlotte and Chicago. García began the 2014 season with Chicago, but was placed on the DL from April 10 to August 24 due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Ultimately from 2014 to 2016, Garcia tantalized with his skill set, but failed to produce consistently. During that span, encompassing 1,138 at-bats, he slashed just .250/.308/.380 with 43 doubles, four triples, 32 homers, 139 RBIs, 84 walks (6.75%) and 300 strikeouts (24.12%). While those numbers weren’t atrocious, they certainly were disappointing, as he never attained 1.0 bWAR in any of those three seasons.

However, everything came together for Avi in 2017, thanks to an unusually high BABIP of .392. For the year, he slashed .330/.380/.506 in 561 at-bats, with 27 doubles, five triples, 18 homers, 80 RBIs, 33 walks (5.88%) and 111 strikeouts (19.79%). Aside from the walk percentage, all the numbers were full season career bests. He also was named to his first All-Star Game, and was the league’s runner-up in batting average.

García with the White Sox in 2018

García had a much more difficult season in 2018, despite setting another career high in homers, with 19. He spent two stints on the DL, due to a strained right hamstring — yet, confusingly also was pulled from a game by manager Ricky Renteria because he didn’t hustle after hitting a routine pop-up. García’s BABIP fell dramatically, from that incredible .392 to a pedestrian .271. For the year, García slashed .236/.281/.438 in 385 at-bats, with 11 doubles, two triples, 19 homers, 49 RBIs, 20 walks (5.19%) and 102 strikeouts (26.49%).

For his seventh straight season, García had a negative defensive bWAR, so he didn’t do much in the field to atone for his weaker offensive showing; in fact, he only had two assists in 2018, compared with 13 the year before.

His bWAR for 2018 was 0.3; factoring the FanGraphs estimate of $7.7MM for each WAR and his $6.7 million salary, García’s actual net value for the White Sox in 2018 was -$4.39 million. García’s bWAR was based solely with his bat, as he was a negative fielder. With his hamstring and other injury issues, García was limited in right field, when he wasn’t the DH. García fared far better against southpaws, as he slashed .332/.392/.600 against them compared to .213/.273/.346 against right-handers.

García’s exit velocity in 2018 (90.3 mph) was still better than the league average of 87.3, and was actually higher than last year’s 90.1; thus, it appears Garcia just simply didn’t have the same luck as he had in 2017.

What are García’s biggest issues offensively? Unsurprisingly, he struggled against all pitches last year compared to 2017.

  • In 2017 against fastballs, García’s slash line was .355/.396/.502 in 2017, with a walk percentage of 6.2% and strikeout percentage of 16.2%. In 2018, that turned to .254/.295/.413, walking 5.4% and whiffing 23.4%.
  • In 2017 against all other pitches, García fell from .304/.329/.495 to .216/.232/.467 in 2018.
  • In 2018, García swung at the first pitch 46% of the time, far more than the league average of 28.1%. He also swung and missed on 33.9% of pitches, well above the 24% league average.
  • Finally, while García chased out of the zone 40.1% of the time in 2018 (the league average was 28.2%), he only made contact 46.1% of the time — much worse than the league average of 60.2%. Obviously Garcia needs to change his approach — getting behind the count immediately by flailing at pitches outside the zone is a sure recipe for disaster.

What does the future have in store for García in a White Sox uniform?

Which is the real García — 2017 or 2018, or perhaps something in between? It’s hard to believe, but he’s just 27, and should be entering the prime years of his career. He only has a career bWAR of 4.9, and much of that was a result of the 2017 season.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, García is projected to receive a salary of $8 million if tendered arbitration. There are a few options:

  • Of course, the Sox could tender García arbitration and he’d remain the starting right fielder, with Daniel Palka as his primary backup; if this is the case, barring unexpected contention, the White Sox would likely attempt to trade García at the deadline.
  • The White Sox could renegotiate his contract and give him an extension, but this is unlikely because the Sox have many up-and-coming outfield prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.
  • Finally, the White Sox could simply non-tender García arbitration, with the intention of acquiring a different right fielder via trade or free agency.