With two torturous months left in the season, everyone who hasn’t fallen off the wagon already is understandably looking for any reason at all to keep tuning into White Sox baseball. Even the thrill of great pitching is somewhat subverted by seeing them regularly forsaken by their teammates.
The only shiny toy the trade deadline sell-off brought was Avisail Garcia, and with him demolishing Triple-A pitching and the Sox offense still all the way dreadful, there’s been a natural push to see him. Fans can get a little eager about these things at times. It’s understandable.
But given the current state of affairs with Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Carlos Sanchez and others, the old White Sox rush job is something to be wary of. Garcia is 22 and has all of 181 plate appearances in Triple-A and less than even a full-season’s worth of work above A-Ball. He also has some hideous plate discipline figures that FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan tweeted out at the time of the trade.
Avisail Garcia has Triple-A’s ninth-highest swing rate, 18th-lowest contact rate (sample = 365 players)
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) July 31, 2013
That certainly sounds like a guy who needs to develop a better idea of the strike zone/learn to recognize and lay off breaking pitches better/calm the hell down, but if he’s hitting .383/.431/.570 across the minors this season, it’s likely an uphill battle to force him to refine it. John Sickels gave this quick summary of Garcia’s state of being in the immediate wake of the trade and the most relevant portion is bolded.
“Garcia is 6-4, 240, born June 12, 1991. He’s a beast with a strong throwing arm and decent speed for his size, and he has the physical strength to hit 20+ homers per season in the majors, if his plate discipline proves adequate. That’s an open question, but minor league pitching is no longer challenging him.”
Garcia has a BABIP firmly placed above the clouds. It could come down and force adjustments, or he could simply be too skilled at barreling up Triple-A pitching for a hacktastic approach to hurt him. As much the idea of a young White Sox figuring it out in the majors sounds terrifying, it’s possible the guy hitting .380 in Triple-A isn’t learning.
Avisail Garcia continues strong in Charlotte, with 3 hits, including a triple. Those who want him up now.. where does he play every day?
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) August 6, 2013
Normally, and certainly during the 2011 flap with Dayan Viciedo, I cackled at all the “Where do you put him?” retorts about an offense that was so malfunctioning that help from Triple-A seemed like a good idea in the first place.
Where do you put him? SOMEWHERE, obviously. Make a hard decision and reduce someone’s role, preferably the guy who’s playing poorly enough that this move became necessary.
But the White Sox are 42-69. Avisail isn’t saving the season. He would just be playing to play and if it’s not a rush, the White Sox are actually doing something with all the slots that Garcia could fill. Alex Rios is a waiver trade candidate that would probably not see his value jump up by being benched for a raw prospect. Apparently the same thing could be said about Adam Dunn.
Dayan Viciedo, while an object of derision, is a 24 year-old that needs to keep eating at-bats until the organization decides he has to stop. If Garcia is wasting his time in Triple-A, having him and Dayan switch places is likely even less useful, especially since Viciedo has been keeping his head above water since the All-Star break (.268/.323/.446).
Punishing players who are performing well for the sake of experiments is problematic, which similarly applies to Alejandro De Aza, who in the midst of getting thrown out all the time for various reasons, keeps hitting (.269/.359/.443 since June 1). Also, and it’s important to get this out of the way now, Avisail Garcia is not a major league center fielder now, and isn’t going to become one in the future.
The only player that Garcia can seemingly displace for performance and utility to the franchise is Paul Konerko, whose power remains fretfully absent through 342 plate appearances with little hope for a return. But while Dayan Viciedo accepting his inevitable move to the DH slot (if he hangs around at all) would be the most coldly efficient action, one benefit of a miserable last place season is that major league decisions are low leverage enough that aging stars can be given dignified ends.
If nothing else, Konerko’s back problems, Rios’ likelihood to be traded or Viciedo’s thumb injury all offer the possibility of forcing an opening for Garcia before September anyway. It simply something that doesn’t need to be forced.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan