30 Home Runs
May 9, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (26) hits a single during the fourth inning in game two of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Now this is a projection I can get behind. Garcia has plus-raw power right now and that should only escalate as he grows into his large frame. Garcia looks like a power hitter. He’s an imposing presence at the plate and his swing has some loft to it.
The power is undoubtedly there. See this ’14 September game in Tampa as a prime example.
However, Garcia’s power can only go as far as his plate discipline will let it take him. The more opportunities Garcia has to see hittable pitches in the zone, the more he’ll leave the yard. He’s swung at 42.3 perent of pitches outside of the zone in ’15 and that is much higher than the 30 percent average O-swing% according to Fangraphs.
This wouldn’t be a problem if he were making above-average contact on pitches eluding the strike zone. However, his 52.3 O-Contact% is well below the 66 percent average.
Thus, Garcia has to lay off low and outside pitches if he wants to see more pitches over the heart of the plate. A pitcher isn’t going to test him on a fastball when they can throw a breaking ball out of zone and have Garcia swing at it about half the time with a coin flip chance that he whiffs when he does.
May 1, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (26) hits a double in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
So what’s been happening when Garcia does make contact?
His .323/.362/.434 slash line suggests that some good things happen. The truth is that these stats are little emptier than they appear, at least for an advertised power hitter.
Garcia’s BABIP is sitting at an unsustainable .405, and while I see this less as a cry for regression than as an indication he has been hitting balls with authority, it still shows that the .323 average isn’t as legit as it seems.
Garcia can be a premier power hitter if he can generate more fly balls. It’s that simple.
Garcia has consistently been barreling up balls and it’s undeniable that he’s had hard contact. The issue is in the nature of the contact. Garcia’s ISO (Isolated Power) is sitting at a meager .111, which is below average. In contrast, his .169 ISO in 2014 was above average and one of the ingredients that made 30 long balls seem feasible for Garcia.
The ISO is low for a key reason, one I’ve noticed just by watching the games but confirmed when looking deeper into the stats. Garcia’s ground ball rate is above average at 50% and his line drive rate is also above average, which is actually a good thing. And it’s not like Garcia can’t take a line drive out of the park. After all, his home run in Saturday’s game is a classic example.
The issue is that most home runs come via the fly ball. This is where Garcia has engineered his biggest red flag. His 21.1 percent FB rate is below the 35 percent league average but as Fangraph’s notes:
"“Power hitters will generally have higher fly ball rates (~44%), while contact hitters normally have high ground ball rates (50-plus percent).”"
So far this season, Avisail Garcia has been a contact hitter and a pure contact hitter won’t even come close to sniffing 30 home runs. The White Sox need Garcia to be another power option behind Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche. As pleasing as the .323 average is, I’d like him to compensate in the way of producing a higher slugging percentage.
If Garcia can get his 21.1 percent FB rate in line with or even above league average, then he is going to hit a lot more bombs.
The HR/FB stat is the ratio at which a fly ball turns into a home run. Garcia’s 12.5 percent HR/FB rate is actually “above average” while his 18.9 percent mark from 2014 represents the real upside. Garcia can be a premier power hitter if he can generate more fly balls. It’s that simple.
For Garcia to lift the ball, he’ll need to focus not on how often he connects with the ball (which he’s been solid at so far) but the upward trajectory of his bat through the hitting plane. I’m not contending that Garcia develop a more uppercut swing. I think he just needs to be more conscious of at what point in his swing trajectory he’s connecting with the ball. At the moment, his timing isn’t conducive to lifting the ball into the air.
Shooting the ball into the sky on a hot day at a ball park like U.S. Cellular field can lend itself to good results if hard contact is still made.
So Garcia hasn’t lost his power. He’s merely lost his approach. If he can mold himself into a more power-centric hitter, then we’re not talking about just 30 home runs but we’re looking at Garcia potentially meeting Konerko’s 40-level prophecy.
The jury is still out on whether Garcia gets to 30 home runs in 2015, but I have little doubt he’ll do so when he enters his prime. The real skepticism lies in the stolen base output. For that, I think the jury may have already mailed in their verdict.
The truth is that Ken Williams isn’t wildly off when he sees a 30/30 ceiling for Garcia. In reality, I think we’ll see more of a slanted one, in which 40/20 is the absolutely ideal output for the well-rounded talent.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe ESPN’s next 30-for-30 documentary will be about a player who does just that: Goes 30/30 en route to an MVP-calibar season.