When the Chicago White Sox acquired Avisail Garcia in the three-team deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox in July of 2013, some high expectations were placed upon the shoulders of the former Detroit Tigers outfielder. Two and a half years later, both fans and pundits alike are ready for his tenure in the Windy City to be over and chalk him up as a bust. Count me in the minority opinion that wants Avi to return in 2016. He is still a very young, very talented ballplayer who has not yet hit his ceiling. Garcia is still just 24 years of age and has had one complete, healthy season at the major league level to his credit.
Since Garcia was seen as the cornerstone for the White Sox rebuild, everyone seemed to expect a superstar by the time he was 23 years old–which is ridiculous to expect from anyone not named Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Perhaps the hype comes from his nickname while in Detroit, “Mini Miggy”, after his triple-crown winning former teammate Miguel Cabrera. The moniker came more from sharing heritage and looks rather than style of play. While Garcia was seen as a good hitter (you don’t start Game One of the American League Championship Series at age 21 if you aren’t), no one thought he would approach Cabrera’s ability at the plate. Cabrera has been the best hitter in the world over the last decade or so. There is no doubt Garcia needs to improve, but a career slash line of .264/.311/.385 for a player as young as him is not shabby. His biggest weakness at the dish is plate discipline, but it is widely noted that that particular skill is the last to come to hitters (if it ever comes, which very well may be the issue, but we don’t know that just yet). The ability is there and it is way too early to write off his career as a bust at this point in time.
That is just offensively. Garcia’s defense may not be gold-glove worthy according to runs saved (-15 according to FanGraphs), but he led the major leagues in outfield assists this year with 17, had a memorable home run saving catch over the right field wall that was hit off the bat of Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis on the Fourth of July to preserve a victory, and had a .988 fielding percentage, good for third among American League right fielders. Garcia is a major league outfielder with a rocket arm and adequate range, as he moves fairly well for a man listed at 6’4″ weighing in at 240 pounds.
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Much of the fanbase advocates for a complete tear down of this roster, but I would be leery of that. Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana and Garcia are all good, young, controllable, and cheap core players to build around. Garcia is controlled through 2019 and made just 523,000 this past season. A look at the Kansas City Royals of the last two seasons which included an AL Pennant and World Series championship show that building a team around a good young core and adding supplemental pieces is one of the best ways to succeed in this game. Royals stalwarts that were on the teams when they were losing include Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar. Without those players, Kansas City schools aren’t closing for a parade last week. This is not to say Garcia is Gordon 2.0 or anything but give him and some of these other young players a chance to prove their worth over the long haul.
Avi has had one full season at the major league level under his belt and is still one of the younger players on the team and can still flourish with time. He only has 1,098 plate appearances at the big league level. Most players don’t get that in the minors before getting called up. Give Avi at least another year or two before saying his career is over and he should be exiled from the Southsiders.