Circumstances in 2020, (a season-ending wrist injury to Starlin Castro, who was signed to play second base for the Nationals, and limited infield options on Washington’s 60-player roster for the COVID campaign), resulted in 20-year-old infielder Luis García getting a call that he might not have received in another season.
García reached Double-A in the Nationals’ system in 2019, as a 19-year-old, finishing up at .257/.280/.337 with 22 doubles, four triples, and four homers in 129 games and 553 plate appearances, and with Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo’s willingness to trust his player development professionals and bring up young players like Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, and Victor Robles, the young infielder might have gotten a shot at some point in the near future anyway.
If Castro was healthy though, there might not have been a need at second base at the big league level in 2020.
Castro signed a two-year deal with the Nationals, and after surgery on his right wrist this past August, he’s healthy again and looking to get back on the field in 2021.
“He’s full go,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters when asked about Castro’s progress last week. “He’s been hitting. He’s itching to get back on the field and play. Talked a little bit about maybe playing winter ball, and I told him I said, ‘Just take it easy. Get ready for Spring Training,’ but he’s itching to go.’”
So where does that leave García? In 40 games and 139 plate appearances this season, the infielder, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016 for $1.3M, put up a solid if not spectacular .276/.302/.366 line with six doubles and two home runs in a -0.4 fWAR season.
Will he be back in the majors in 2021, or will he start the season at Triple-A (for the first time in his career)?
“We’re just going to get him in Spring Training and see where he’s at,” Martinez said in the December 15th Zoom call.
“I know he’s working his tail off right now. We talked a lot about quickness with him, and agility and flexibility. And he’s been doing that.
“He looks really good this winter. He did really well last year, but he’s young.
“We’ll see what happens, we’ll see how our roster sets up come Spring Training.”
García talked late last season about what he learned from his first exposure to the big leagues, even if it was in the truncated 60-game campaign.
“I’ve learned a lot throughout the season from our manager, the coaches, and my teammates,” García said. “I think the main thing I want to take from this season, is basically [what I] learned about the game itself, how to slow it down for me, not let it get too quick on me, and just remain with a good focus throughout the game as well.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, in his own Zoom call with reporters, talked about what the young prospects on the Nats’ roster, like García and third baseman Carter Kieboom, need to show once they get to Spring Training to earn playing time in the majors again in 2021.
“I think that they just have to show a year more experience,” Rizzo said.
“I think that was their big flaw, as it is with many, many rookies, is that you’re a rookie, and you can’t get experience in the big leagues other than playing in the big leagues, so the speed of the game, the length of the games, and how focused you have to be for such a long period of time is something that’s a learned experience in my opinion, and I think that it was a big step forward for both of them. Eye-opening, I think, for both of them, to see what the speed of the games are, and how difficult it is to grind it out on a daily basis even though it was a very short season.
“That’s something that they’ll have to build upon for next year.”
Will García build upon what he learned as part of the Nationals’ lineup?
Or will he start the season up in Rochester, New York, where the Nats’ new Triple-A affiliate is located, with the club starting Castro at second base in D.C.?