I Still Don’t Get Avisail Garcia

Back in February of 2015, I wrote the first edition of this article – I Don’t Get It: Avisail Garcia. Three seasons later, that article has held up really well. Avisail Garcia has posted less than four WAR over his last 1,615 plate appearance. However, since his 2017 campaign checked in at 4.2 WAR with strong four category production, fantasy owners are going to jump back onto the Avisailwagon. I’m here to advise caution.

Let’s revisit that old article first. Here’s a quick outline.

  • Garcia has plus raw power
  • Terrible pitch recognition
  • Breakout potential with a mechanical change
  • Not more likely to break out than any other (cheaper) breakout candidate

I did fail to directly note one important characteristic of his profile – he was an extreme ground ball hitter. That limited his ability to tap into his power. (I did point out that mechanical changes similar to J.D. Martinez would help).

Fast forward to the present, and these bullets all hold true. Despite a superb 2017 campaign, Garcia is still a flawed player. He remains one of the most aggressive hitters in the league. He swings at pitches both inside and outside of the strike zone about 10 percentage points more often than league average.

The aggression leads to a manageable strikeout rate, including a career low 19.8 percent last year. Garcia continues to whiff extremely frequently (16.2 percent SwStr%), especially on pitches outside of the strike zone. Although he tapped into his power stroke for a career best 18 home runs, he’s still a ground ball machine. And 18 home runs aren’t nearly as interesting now as they were prior to 2015.

Garcia provided value to his owners last season by posting a .330 average and .380 OBP. He also produced 75 runs and 80 RBI while batting in the heart of a terrible lineup. We know he’ll maintain that useful lineup role in 2018. The batting average and OBP? Well, that’s less likely.

He was the beneficiary of a .392 BABIP. And while hard contact ground ball hitters are usually high BABIP guys, we should probably expect him to fall into the .330 to .340 BABIP range. Garcia also became pull happy in 2017. According to our splits tool, he was rarely and ineffectively shifted. It’s possible opposing defenses will figure out a better shift strategy next season.

Opposing pitchers mostly allowed Garcia to get away with his aggression. He thrives on pitches in the strike zone, and yet opponents still tossed 43.9 percent of offerings in the zone (league average 45 percent). Usually Garcia sees about 40 percent strikes. I wonder if the ineffectual White Sox offense led to pitchers being less strategic against him. Chicago projects to be quite terrible next year. Garcia may continue to see plenty of strikes.

To my eyes, pitchers can clamp down on Garcia whenever they want. Working the ball off the plate even slightly more frequently will lead to a swift increase in strikeouts. More batted balls on pitches outside the zone should also torpedo the gaudy BABIP.

Parting Shots

When I sat down to take a look at Garcia, I was hoping to see a sustainable profile. Instead, his 2017 success appears to be a combination of a high BABIP and friendly opposing pitchers. And while the same friendly conditions could be repeated in 2018, that’s just not a gamble I want to make.

Until I see him show an understanding of the strike zone or hit more fly balls, I’m staying far away. Garcia was picked as the 184th player in the 2018 Too Early Mock Draft. For comparable categorical production, I’d much rather take a shot on 210th ranked Jason Kipnis or 222nd rated Shin-Soo Choo. Just to name a couple of the many, many alternatives.

We hoped you liked reading I Still Don’t Get Avisail Garcia by Brad Johnson!

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Further supporting that he was lucky is xwOBA. Per Baseball Savant, he “should” have put up a .353 wOBA vs an actual .385 (not sure why Savant has a higher wOBA than the .375 here at Fangraphs)