Luis García, 22, played second base the majority of the time in his first two big league seasons with the Washington Nationals in 2020-2021, but he shifted back over to his original position at short in the minors in ‘21 (and committed 11 errors in 28 games and 219 2⁄3 innings, and he made 13 errors in 59 games and 503 1⁄3 innings at shortstop in the majors this season).
With a good look at García at short, and the acquisition of 21-year-old shortstop CJ Abrams at the trade deadline this past August 2nd, the club decided to move their young infielder back to second base.
Garcìa told his big league manager he was comfortable there and when they called Abrams up, and both infielders were healthy, that’s how they lined up down the stretch this past season.
Luis García is just so pure. pic.twitter.com/boaaMBeEiP— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 31, 2022
“He’s a young kid who just wants to play,” Martinez said when asked about García’s reaction to the move. “We’re fortunate that he can play both, but he’s looking forward to playing second base next to CJ.”
García stayed at Triple-A Rochester until June 1st this past season, putting up a .308/.366/.519 line with seven doubles, four triples, and three home runs over 45 games and 205 plate appearances for the Nats’ top affiliate before he was called back up, and in 93 games and 377 PAs in the majors he put up a .275/.295/.408 line with 23 doubles, two triples, and seven home runs on the year in the majors.
“He’s been — since we signed him — an offensive-first player,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past summer. “His bat came way quicker than his defense. And we’re trying to catch up defensively. He can hit, he’s got bat speed and balance at the plate. He’s got plate coverage, and strike zone knowledge, and he’s got the special thing that those great hitters do at their hands. I call it — he’s got the flick at the end where the ball jumps off his bat, and I think that the league is starting to make an adjustment to him, so he’s going to have make an adjustment to the league, and I think he can, and we’re looking at a player who is going to be a core guy for us for a long time.”
Davey Martinez, the Nationals’ skipper, said in late August the biggest developments he had seen from the infielder had to do with the work he did behind the scenes to develop a daily routine which focused on what he needed to improve and build on from what he’d learned early in his big league career.
“I have seen Luis form some kind of routine where before when he was up here — he’s had a different kind of routine, wouldn’t call it a routine,” the manager explained, “but it was different — but he’s actually now getting to where he’s always in the cage at the same time, he’s always doing everything he needs to do to prepare and get ready, and I’m watching him every day doing the same thing, so it’s been good. And I actually mentioned to him about that, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job getting yourself prepared and ready for the games, awesome. Not just walking around and laughing and joking with everybody. You’re actually working to get better, which is great.’”
“I think now he understands — he’s been here now a few times,” Martinez continued, “… so he’s starting to understand what he needs to do to be better, and he always talks about wanting to be better, wanting to be the best in his position. Wants to be a really good hitter. And I told him, ‘Part of it is your routine and what you do and how you carry yourself, and not give any at-bats away.’ For me, I didn’t get any hits, I always told myself, ‘Nobody is going to get a hit.’ I was going to catch everything. Play that way. Try to catch everything. He talks about that a lot.”
García too talked about consistency at the plate and in the field as a goal as he goes forward.
“It’s very important to me,” he said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman:
“I’ve always worked toward finding consistency up here and thank God I’ve been able to do that since I’ve been up here and kept working. I’m going to keep working to stay as consistent as possible.”
His manager talked over the final month of the season about the strides García’s made at the plate this year.
“It’s just about his chase rate,” Martinez explained.
[ed. note - “García’s Chase% this season was down to 37.0% from 40.8% in 2021 according to Baseball Savant.”]
“He’s gotten better. Sometimes he reverts back to chasing. But he has gotten better, so you know as long as he gets the ball in the strike zone, and he stays on the fastball, he’s done really well. And that’s something that we talked to him about today already. Just hey, just continue to stay on the fastball, elevate the ball, because he’s a much better high ball hitter than he is low ball, and limit your chases, when you do that, you get the ball in the zone, you hit the ball hard, so we’ll let him go out there today and like I said, try to get him to stay off the balls below the zone and get the ball up and see what he does.”
“For him,” the manager reiterated in the final week of the 2022 campaign, “… it’s all about consistency, you know, looking for the ball up and not chasing. The rest of this year and come next year, his big thing is not to chase. We got to get him in the zone.”
“He’s still young,” Martinez added, “he’s a young hitter, and we’re trying to get him to understand what kind of hitter he can be.”