By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Fascinating yet frustrating, Avisail Garcia still remains an unknown.
Though it may not be fair, the young right fielder has been representative of the White Sox’s state of affairs leading into this 2017 season. Garcia emerged with such promise and has left more to be desired. He could be a bright young star or just this, the incomplete player we’ve seen now for three-plus seasons in Chicago.
Garcia is just 25 hasn’t even reached 1,600 plate appearances in his major league career, but he hasn’t deserved an everyday place on the field. Entering Saturday’s tilt with the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field, his career stood at -1.3 wins below replacement level on FanGraphs.
Despite the struggles throughout his young career, the White Sox haven’t given up on Garcia. They are moving into this rebuilding phase with Garcia getting a chance to earn his place for the future.
Let’s see if Garcia can become something more.
Saturday gave a glimpse of Garcia’s good and bad. He had three hits, including a sixth-inning home run crushed to center field. Garcia spent the offseason adjusting his diet and losing 18 pounds, then going to the batting cage and working on taking better at-bats. He’s better at the plate and more nimble on his feet. The early returns have brought forth a slash line of .500/.529/.813 in these first four games.
But Garcia also slouched on a popup to shallow right field, leaving second baseman Tyler Saladino without help against the sun and the wind. In Friday’s contest, he showed little urgency on a similar blooper and dropped the ball, an error that would cost the White Sox in their 3-1 loss.
Whether it’s a poor route to a flyball or limited range in right field, Garcia has been a defensive liability. Never has he been a plus player in the field. The role of designated hitter would better suit him for a contending team, but the White Sox are giving him a shot in right field.
Garcia has also seen inconsistencies as the plate. His career-best OPS is a modest .731 mark in 2013. For all the potential in that bat, Garcia constantly chases poor pitches and is a victim of his own ways. He’s approaching at-bats differently, now learning to work the count. When down to two strikes, Garcia chokes up on the bat and looks for contact.
He feels like a different hitter. The confidence is riding high.
“You don’t have to do too much,” Garcia said. “You just have to see the ball and hit it.”
Manager Rick Renteria pointed to Garcia’s strength as a natural asset at the plate. He doesn’t need to swing for the fences; simply striving for contact is enough to drive the ball. Renteria wanted Garcia to focus on taking good at-bats instead of hitting home runs.
Garcia’s triple came on a blast to right field, a pitch he took the other way. He did the same for the single, a sharp shot to the opposite field. The home run was stroked to center. Garcia is covering the plate and spraying the field.
Chances have come frequently for Garcia, the prized prospect sent from Detroit in a 2013 deadline deal. Whenever a division rival is willing to ship a young player away, it raises an eyebrow. Garcia hasn’t proven the Tigers wrong.
Still, the White Sox avoided arbitration with Garcia this offseason and brought him back on a one-year deal. It’s another chance to strive for his potential. If he can work better counts, go the opposite way more consistently and get on base at a better clip, that would be a considerable step forward.
Garcia may never be the player that the White Sox had hoped when making that deal in 2013. Right now, they just want him to be a reliable asset in the lineup.
Games like Saturday’s come every so often for Garcia, leaving those to wonder if he can be something more. They’ve been wondering now for several years.
“I feel confident,” he said. “I feel confident.”
Now he must go finally show it.