Luis García, 21, has some things to work on after his second season in the majors in 2021, from staying locked in and prepared for every play, to his approach against right-handed pitchers.
In two seasons in D.C., the Washington Nationals’ infielder, who signed for $1.3M in 2016, and moved up quickly in the organization, has shown flashes of being the type of player that club thinks he can be, but there’s still work to do moving forward.
García’s manager, Davey Martinez, pointed to the left-handed swinging infielder’s reverse splits this season as something that he needs to sort out.
In 37 games at Triple-A Rochester this season, García had a .326/.388/.674 line against left-handed pitchers, and a .293/.364/.566 line vs right-handers, after he had a .323/.356/.444 line in 104 PAs vs righties in 2020’s 60-game campaign, and .143/.143/.143 line in 35 versus lefties.
In the majors in 2021, the left-handed swinging infielder put up a .221/.260/.395 line against right-handers, and a .297/.318/.453 line against left-handers, though 11 of 18 doubles, and a total of five of his six home runs came against right-handed pitchers.
So what was behind his reverse splits in the majors?
“Yeah, against right-handers — well, let’s go against left-handers, against left-handers he’s staying on the ball,” Martinez explained, “and everything middle-in, he’s really hitting hard.
“But he’s actually staying a lot better on the ball. Against right-handers, he just comes off the ball a little bit quicker. He sees the ball, obviously he sees the ball a lot better.
“Lefties, he waits a really long time to make a decision to swing, and it’s been helping him out. And we want him to do that as well with right-handed [pitchers]. He gets up there against right-handed [pitchers] and he sees the ball so well that sometimes he just gets a little bit ahead of himself. And that’s going to come.”
“He’s got really good bat-to-ball skills,” Martinez added.
“He doesn’t strike out much, he puts the ball in play, so now it’s just trusting his hands, and waiting back, and getting ready for each pitch.”
“So, and that will come. But he’s made some tremendous strides, he really has.
“As we all know, I think he’s going to hit — for me, he could be a 40-double guy, 15-20 home run guy, but he’s definitely got a lot better.”
Has García shown enough to earn the second base job in D.C. in 2022?
“I think that he’ll have every opportunity to be our everyday second baseman,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said over the final weekend of the regular season.
“He’s a good young player, he’s got great bat speed, and he’s got good power.
“He’s made some highlight plays, and he’s had some concentration lapses. He’s 21 years old, I had some concentration lapses at 21, so we’re going to give him a break about that, but he’s a terrific young talent, and we just have to put our arms around him and just be patient. Like a lot of young players.
“This second half of the season is a second half that we really had to be patient with the players, and kind of hug them instead of beat them up.”
Rizzo, as he’s said often, and reiterated recently in discussing the reboot the organization kicked off with a number of deals at the trade deadline, isn’t really a patient man, but that talk was about winning and fielding competitive teams. When it comes to developing the young players on the club?
“You know, I am [patient] with young players,” Rizzo said. “I really am with young players, because I know how difficult this game is, it’s just so hard to play. These are elite players at extremely young ages, and we look at the [Victor] Robleses and the [Carter] Kiebooms and that type of thing, and they’re 24 years old. If they were college draft picks they’d be in Double-A right now, so it’s kind of the way developmentally how I have to think of it, but there’s a time to be patient, and there’s a time to act, and I think that we have to have a good balance of that.”
If 21-year-old @Nationals infielder Luis Garcia was still prospect eligible, where would he rank on Washington's Top 30?@jimcallisMLB answers in the latest Inbox: https://t.co/2vVKL6npt6 pic.twitter.com/6o8ucTF9Db— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 30, 2021
Garcia, as MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo noted in a Q&A at the end of the 2021 campaign, was the youngest player in the majors in 2020, and the youngest in the NL in ‘21, and, “he’s still younger than 65 members of MLB Pipeline’s current Top 100 Prospects list,” as Mayo wrote, in a not-altogether glowing assessment of where the infielder stands right now.
Rizzo added later in his season-ending talk with reporters, that he thinks an improved ability to stay locked in and focused will help him García defensively in the future.
“García has been voted a defensive player of the year in the minor leagues several times,” Rizzo said, “and you’ve seen flashes of brilliance out there, and I think concentration will make him that much better.”