Much to my consternation, the White Sox decided to prioritize shedding payroll above adding quality prospects while trading Alex Rios and Jake Peavy at the deadline. The result is that they have a big pile of money at a time where there isn’t much to spend it on this offseason, and the new CBA doesn’t allow you to leverage cash into better players in the amateur draft or in international free agency. Regardless, they did get SOME prospects back in the form of Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia.
Garcia has youth on his side, and moved up through the minors being on the young end of the spectrum at every level along the way. Only turning 22 in March of this year, Garcia reached the majors this year.
There are some things you can learn about Garcia without even looking at a scouting report. While minor league statistics are extremely dubious as far as making assessments on a prospect, in certain extreme situations you can deduce quite a bit. For example, speed is a big part of Garcia’s game. Playing shortstop and second base (and a tiny smattering of CF), Garcia has stolen 158 bases and been caught 43 times in 483 minor league games, which would work out to about 53 steals in a 162 game sample.
Similarly, while the Rangers were optimistic that he could play one of the valuable defensive positions up the middle, Garcia has made 159 errors in that same time span, which would probably be some sort of record-breaking pace of errors made should that occur at the major league level. At age 18 in Low A, Garcia logged 42 errors in only 83 games. That’s insane.
As I always say, errors aren’t the best way to measure defense, as the number of opportunities you have to make errors is largely a function of your range, but at a certain point when you are throwing a ball away or kicking it into the outfield on 1/10 plays no amount of range can redeem you. It’s clear the Rangers started toying with the idea of moving him to the outfield in 2012-2013. The good news is that he has improved on his error rate with a .950 fielding percentage at AAA this year to go alongside a .955 mark last year at AA at shortstop. Still problematic, but better than the rates between .880-920 he was logging at lower levels.
Garcia is only 5’7” and 160 pounds, according to his listing and has only posted a .261/.310/.346 line across the minors – he is never going to be an impact bat in terms of power. When you are really fast and don’t have any power, there is zero reason for a pitcher to walk you, and you’ll have to earn them by spoiling pitches, being selective, and prioritizing getting on base any way you can.
If Garcia can actually get his errors under control and steal bases efficiently, he can be a useful major league player bouncing between SS/2B/CF. He’s so young and has been so young at each level, it’s not completely unrealistic to hope that with some time he could improve his hitting a little bit at the plate. After all, a plus fielder at a valuable defensive position who adds value on the basepaths really doesn’t have to hit all that much to contribute. Although, it’s also important to remember that players whose value is primarily tied up in their glove are more useful to franchises like, say, the Tigers than the White Sox, who have zero margin for error on offense and no real middle of the order bats to compensate.
In a world where the best organization in baseball is running out Pete Kozma (.219/.275/.277) every day at shortstop in a playoff race, and major league shortstops are hitting .253/.306/.365, if the White Sox have added a shortstop who can put up a .650 OPS for the league minimum he’s a nice piece to have. If Garcia improves he may be more valuable to the White Sox in that it frees them up to deal him or Alexei Ramirez for an area of greater need. Perhaps his presence is helpful merely in that it obviates the need/threat of guys like Ray Olmedo and Angel Sanchez while actually possessing some moderate upside.
The danger of Leury Garcia is that he lures the White Sox with the siren song of a burner on the basepaths who can play up the middle – and instead he posts OPS numbers in the .500s while killing the offense. We’ve seen the White Sox succumb to this temptation before. At least this time the player is young enough that there’s hope of some remaining upside.