Talking about the decision to have 19-year-old infielder Luis Garcia in big league camp with the Washington Nationals this Spring, Assistant GM and VP of International Operations for the organization, Johnny DiPuglia, told the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty that he and GM Mike Rizzo thought Garcia was ready for the challenge.
[General Manager] Mike Rizzo asked me how I thought Luis would handle this,” DiPuglia told the WaPost reporter in March.
“I told him Luis would be just fine, and he has been. Luis has been really good with everything — even better than I expected.”
Manager Davey Martinez, who compared the young shortstop’s swing to 21-year-old Nats’ outfielder Juan Soto’s this Spring, and advised Garcia to continue watching Soto at the plate, told reporters early in camp that he liked what he saw from the young infielder as games started up in Florida.
“I think he’s starting to understand what he can be,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Pete Kerzel in early March.
“He’s still got a lot to learn, but you watch him, and he’s very fluid in everything he does.”
Expecting that Garcia can step in like Soto and Victor Robles before him, however, might be wishful thinking, as Baseball America’s Lacy Lusk told MASN’s Byron Kerr after Major League Baseball postponed Spring Training in mid-March:
“I wouldn’t expect a Juan Soto or a Victor Robles every time out,” Lusk cautioned. “I would temper that and say he’s a notch below that, but he looked really tremendous as a young guy in the Carolina League in 2018. But this past year struggled in the first half at Harrisburg. His numbers in the second half looked a little more like I would expect, where he could build on that this coming season and then be a part of the Nationals’ infield maybe starting the year after that.”
Garcia, who signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3M in 2016, turned 19 last May, and put up a .241/.274/.277 line (61 for 253) with seven doubles and a triple in the first half of the season Double-A Harrisburg last year, but as noted by BA’s Lusk above, he did manage to bounce back some in the second-half, with a .272/.286/.393 line (74 for 272), 15 doubles, three triples, and four home runs for the Senators.
Before Spring Training was postponed last month, Garcia was 6 for 15 (.316/.381/.316) in Grapefruit League action, and he managed to make a strong impression on Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who told SiriusXM hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette this past weekend that the young infielder was one of the standouts for him in West Palm Beach, FL.
“Our young middle infielder Luis Garcia really showed that he’s getting closer to being major league-ready,” Rizzo said.
“A few nuances of his game need to come together for him to have the full package, but you’re talking about a young kid that more than held his own at the Double-A level at 19 years old, and a guy that can stay at the middle of the field, can stay at shortstop if we need him to be, and has a real propensity to put the barrel of the bat on the ball. Power we think is going to come later, but runs the bases well, son of a major leaguer, so he has a lot of the intangibles and things that we like in our prospects, so he’s a guy who really opened up a lot of eyes not only at the ownership level, but at the major league staff level.”
When will see Garcia in the nation’s capital? BA’s Lusk mentioned above that he could use a little more seasoning in the minors, but could come up in 2021. MLB’s Pipeline scouts, who had Garcia ranked second overall in the Nats’ system this year, behind only Carter Kieboom, who could be at third in D.C. if they play this summer, suggested a 2021 ETA as well.
If Kieboom struggles, or there is an injury, will we see Garcia up at some point in 2020 (if they do play)?
ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel, who had Garcia ranked as the 95th overall prospect in baseball this winter, noted in his writeup on the shortstop that he did get, “... a seven-figure bonus as an amateur and scouts are now wary of betting against the Nationals when the club thinks it has another elite hitting prospect.”