Davey Martinez talked a few weeks back about trying to convince 20-year-old Nationals’ rookie Luis García to be a little more selective at the plate, even if he could get to some pitches out of the zone and make contact.
“We’re trying to teach him to accept his walks,” the third-year manager explained.
“He goes up there and he’s swinging from the on-deck circle sometimes. So we’re trying to get him to just get better pitches to hit, because he’s got really good bat-to-ball skills. I mean, he doesn’t walk a whole lot, but he puts a lot of balls in play, probably balls that he shouldn’t put in play, so we’re trying to get him to understand, to recognize the strike zone for him and accept his walks as well.”
García, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.3M in 2016, was called up to the majors earlier this season, after working his way up to Double-A Harrisburg in the Nationals’ system in 2019.
In his first eight games, leading up to Martinez’s comments (on 8/24), the second baseman was 10 for 28 (.357/.379/.500) with a double, home run, one walk, and seven Ks in 29 plate appearances, but he cooled off over the last six games, going just 3 for 19 (.158/.200/.211) with one double, one walk, and two Ks in 20 PAs before Monday night’s series opener in the City of Brotherly Love.
García had a .450 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) in the first eight games, and that was down to .176 in the last six.
Are the Nationals’ coaches still preaching strike zone discipline and trying to get García to be more selective about which pitches he offers at?
“Absolutely,” Martinez said before last night’s game.
“We don’t ever want to take his aggressiveness away,” he added, “but what we’d like for him to do is get better pitches to hit, don’t try to put every ball in play, because he can put every ball in play, but we want to get him in the strike zone and start working counts. When he does that he hits the ball really hard, when he gets the ball up he hits the ball really hard.”
“We want him to understand the game like I said, his bat-to-ball skills are really good.
“He doesn’t swing and miss much against right-handed pitchers, but we want him to get good pitches to hit and work counts. But he’s going to do well, he really is.
“I love watching him play, he brings a lot of energy to our team. And he’s constantly asking questions about everything and he’s eager to learn, so he’s going to do well up here.”
García, as Martinez mentioned, has hit right-handers well, starting the night on Monday with a .314/.351/.457 line vs RHPs and a .167/.167/.167 line vs LHPs in obviously small sample sizes.
In spite of the fact that García’s leveled off some in the last week-plus, Martinez said that he will continue to play over the next month.
“We’re going to use Luis to play second base over there as much as possible,” Martinez told reporters. “Right now I like him against right-handed pitchers, so he’s going to start against right-handed pitchers. But we want to see him play. I really believe out of any year to have a young kid up here to play, it’s now.
“There’s no fans, you’re still playing in the major leagues, but we want to see what he can do.
“But also too we want to make sure we protect him as well, and protect — he’s still young, and he’s still learning, so we want to make sure that we protect him as well.”