Exit Interviews: Leury Garcia
Such an odd way to be airborne. // Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
These “exit interviews” will be going over the entire 40-man roster and looking to see how each player does or does not fit into the White Sox future.
The term “exit interview” is usually used when an employee is leaving the company. I took that into consideration…and kept it.
Leury Garcia – Three-tool package that’s missing anything related to bats.
Age by 2014 Opening Day: 23
Contract: Less than one year of service time acquired and not a great bet to reach six.
Relevant stats: MLB: 45 games, 111 plate appearances, .198/.248/.228, 25 wRC+ (!!!!), 6.3 BB%, 30.6 K%, .030 ISO. Seven out of nine stealing bases. His defensive appearances are too scattershot for defensive metrics to mean anything (more than usual, that is). He’s stupid fast and has an arm that enables him to play short.
AAA: 55 games, 240 plate appearances, .265/.314/.395, 6.3 BB%, 25.4 K%, .130 ISO, 15 of 19 stealing bases.
Interpretation: The quantifiable stuff is blisteringly awful. The unquantifiable stuff is pretty great. He’s like a house full of frozen pizzas with no working oven. Also, this is what you get when you decide to carry a raw but physically talented prospect on the big league roster in a reserve role. He gets under 400 plate appearance in a crucial development year and looks perpetually rusty.
Emblematic split: Versus right-handed pitching in 2013, Leury struck out 25 times in 66 plate appearances and had one extra-base hit. It was a triple. He is so damn fast and he can not hit at all. Maybe Jerry should start a soccer team.
Pre-season expectations: I sure as hell wasn’t tracking little Leury at the beginning of the season. FanGraphs’ Marc Hulet actually had him high enough in his pre-season Rangers prospect list to write him up:
"“With Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar ahead of him, Garcia has moved around the field a bit and can also play second base and third base. The contact I spoke with called him a legitimate shortstop who has the ability to play regularly with plus speed at the big league level. The feeling is he’s underrated because the organization has been aggressive with his development. “He’s always played a level above where, perhaps, he should have.” If Garcia doesn’t break camp with the Rangers, he should head to Triple-A where he’ll continue to polish his defensive repertoire while also learning to become more patient at the plate.”"
Quote of the year: “I am working on all three jobs every day in practice,” he said. “My arm is used to throwing from all of the positions now; they can play me any place they like.”
Leury’s story: Following the cherished Eduardo Escobar career path, Leury Garcia made the Texas Rangers’ big club as a 25th man thanks to good Spring, despite having spent most of his MiLB career playing above his natural age level and with clearly displayed offensive deficiencies that needed maintenance.
As if bound by fate, Garcia flashed enormous range and squirted around the basepaths, but was so untenably awful at the plate that he was demoted by the Rangers in mid-June. Punting offense entirely sounds like a possibly acceptable schedule until you have to witness it up close and with any regularity. Garcia scored eight runs in the 25 games he appeared in with Texas, and half of them came in one game against the Astros.
Garcia quickly rediscovered some pop in Triple-A Round Rock, and even started reaching base at a half-decent clip as his BABIP against minor league defenses ballooned to near .360, but still struck out in nearly one in every four at-bats. Someone like Leury Garcia cannot be striking out once in every four at-bats. Yet this was the high point.
After the trade, Garcia played all of eight games with the Charlotte Knights, and manned three different positions. Unsurprisingly, he played like someone whose head never stopped spinning. Similarly, upon being promoted, Garcia flipped between the type of disparate usage his multi-position reserve future might hold for him, and legitimately getting a shot to be a table-setting leadoff man. On one occasion, he even started three games in a row.
Garcia broke even stealing bases (six of eight) and handled an impressive breadth of positions, but struggled to make contact or reach base alongside the rest of his teammates. On the one hand, Garcia’s striking once out of every three plate appearances in Chicago could be blamed on him never being allowed to establish any kind of routine all season, but there are evaluations that go into this type of deployment. If anyone really thought Garcia could hit, they probably give him more opportunities to do so.
Assessment: Thankfully, I suppose, the White Sox are currently in a position where Garcia has a particular use for them. When positionless clods like Dayan Viciedo and Paul Konerko are holding down bench jobs, someone who can serve as depth at every up-the-middle defensive position save for catcher really ties together an otherwise cracktastically assembled roster.
Otherwise, it’s a mixture of gawking at how hopeless Garcia seems to be at the plate and gawking at what little consideration has been given to moving his bat through the minors at a rate that reasonably allows him to develop. He gave his first hint of being able to hold his own as a 21 year-old playing over his head in Double-A, and then had to spend the next year trying to figure out big league pitching.
But with Garcia’s package, it’s possible that his success at lower levels was only predicated on the type of trouble with his speed that major leaguers will never have, because they don’t have potatoes for hands like the average Double-A infield. Even more problematic, is that by some hellish coincidence, Garcia would actually be hard-pressed for playing time in the White Sox minors. Carlos Sanchez, Marcus Semien and Matt Davidson could all crowd him out of the Charlotte infield, and Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson could push him out of center field. Meanwhile, if he could catch, he’d be vying for a starting spot.
Utility man is an open route to a major league paycheck for Garcia, but doesn’t offer an existence that makes him hard-pressed to reach arbitration. The White Sox likely don’t care, and I’m not sure they should.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan