Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made the call to bring Luis García up to the majors in Baltimore earlier this month, when Starlin Castro went down with a broken wrist, in spite of the fact that García, who signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3M in 2016, is only 20 years old and had never played above Double-A before this season.
Through seven games heading into Sunday afternoon’s matchup with Miami’s Marlins, the left-handed hitting infielder was 7 for 24 (.292/.320/.458) at the plate with a double, a home run, a walk, and seven Ks in his first 25 big league plate appearances, and the GM said he’s liked what he’s seen from the talented young player so far.
“I think he’s holding his own for a player at 20 years old who’s never played above Double-A,” Rizzo said in a Zoom call with reporters on Sunday afternoon.
“I think he’s got an unusually mature approach at the plate,” Rizzo added.
“I think that defensively we always knew he was going to be stellar at second base. He’s a terrific shortstop. Learning a position at a big league level at age 20 is never easy, but we have done it before with our left fielder, [Juan Soto], so we feel that [García] has the maturity and baseball aptitude to adapt to it. And I think that the early returns right now are that he’s going to have a positive impact on this team not only this year, but moving forward.”
Having Soto around, Rizzo acknowledged, has definitely helped ease the transition. The two of them have been friends for some time now, and García talked openly recently about how he’s patterned a few aspects of his game after the Nationals’ 21-year-old “veteran”.
“We’re an organization that we put a young player on a championship caliber club just about each and every year,” Rizzo said, so it’s nothing new to have them on the roster alongside veterans who can help guide them through the process.
[ed. note - “Adam Eaton was asked after Sunday’s game about the fact that the Nationals seem to have a new 20-year-old on the roster every year: ‘That’s not normal by the way,’ Eaton said. ‘It’s cool to see the energy. It’s cool to see those guys come ready to play, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and just excited to learn. It’s awesome to see.”]
“Whether it be when we brought up [Stephen] Strasburg or [Bryce] Harper or [Anthony] Rendon or Soto and then [Victor] Robles, now Garcia and [Carter] Kieboom,” Rizzo said.
“You look at a future lineup beyond this year, you’ve got young players at third, shortstop, second base, left and center field, so it’s a really kind of uplifting and positive outlook for the future of this team.”
With the young fielders, and a number of young pitchers who’ve come up already and are at the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA this year, Rizzo said he likes what’s the club has waiting in the wings for later this season and beyond.
“I know that the experts in this industry rank our minor league system somewhere down at the bottom, but to put five young players on the field at the same time and have the young arms that we have in the big leagues already and coming in the near future, I’ll stack our organization up with anybody’s in the game. And we have won a lot of games, we’ve won it with a mixture of veterans and young kids and young talented players, and we’ve got a lot of them behind this group of guys too.”
García went 3 for 4 with three runs scored in Sunday’s 9-3 win over the Miami Marlins, with a grounder to right and two line drives to center that his manager, Davey Martinez, who is constantly preaching staying up the middle of the field must have loved.
“For me, and I harp on this all the time, but you know, when we stay in the middle of the field, we’re really good,” Martinez said after the game.