By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the topics that keep baseball executives up at night is evaluating their own young talent properly. You don’t want to be the team that develops a youngster and then watch him become a top player elsewhere, as the Brewers did with outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
The case in point for the Chicago White Sox is outfielder/designated hitter Avisail Garcia. Acquired in the late summer 2013 three-team swap that was centered around Jake Peavy, Garcia is still battling through player development issues at age 25.
Garcia has the most White Sox tenure of anyone on the 25-man roster other than ace left-hander Chris Sale. As Garcia has battled injuries, some some call his career incomplete. Others simply call it underachieving.
Anyway you slice it, the last 38 games of the season may determine Garcia’s fate in the organization. He’s hitting .240 with nine homers, 36 RBIs and a .679 OPS in 324 plate appearances across 87 games this season. Garcia’s only fully healthy big league season came in 2015, when he hit 13 homers and had 59 RBIs in His only full and healthy season was 2015 when he hit 13 homers and drove in 59 in 601 plate appearances in 148 games. His career .695 OPS doesn’t scream out everyday right fielder for the future.
Garcia was miscast as a the DH for most of the season and to his credit never complained. Few teams use 25-year-old prospects as a DH. Due to Chicago’s pickup of center fielder Austin Jackson and wanting better defense, Garcia was moved to the DH role, which was vacated when Adam LaRoche retired in spring training. Garcia’s defense has appeared better since spring training but still could be improved upon.
White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson has tried to get Garcia to use the middle of the field and stand more upright in his bating approach. Now the next goal is to get some loft in Garcia’s line-drive swing.
“We don’t want use the word lift,” Steverson said. “We prefer to use contact point and angle. Where you are contacting the ball determines if you get it up in the air or not. If you are too deep on contact or too out in front, that will cause ground balls. It’s timing typically at the front part of the plate.”
Steverson was then asked if Garcia has done his part in working hard in this process.
“He has done a lot of work over some years,” Steverson said. “Understanding the work and how it correlates to his brain and his functions are two different things. What you can do or what I might do, he might not feel. What I see and what he thinks, it is may be different. One of the hardest things to do in coaching is to understand what the player is feeling. The player has to be a part of the rescue. If he doesn’t feel the message, we have to find other ways to get the best feel he can get.”
Garcia picked up the pace in the first five games of August, going 5-of-15 with three homers before getting injured and heading to the disabled list with an ankle sprain.
As the White Sox remain cautiously optimistic about his future, Garcia can stay under team control through 2020. Look for him to play a lot of right field until season’s end.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.