Without mentioning any service time considerations, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked in late May, before Luis García was called up on June 1st, about how the club wanted to wait to make sure the 22-year-old infielder was ready to play short in the majors when he came up again after debuting in 2020 and playing 110 games (mostly at second base) in ‘20 and ‘21.
“Luis García is one of our prime prospects,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies days before the Nationals made the move to call him up.
“We want to make sure he’s ready to get here. We think he’s very, very close ... but don’t forget, he’s 22 years old. He’d be a college senior right now if he was draft eligible, so this guy’s got a bright future in front of him. My job is to make sure that he’s completely ready when he comes.
“He’s very, very close, and you’ll be seeing him in the very near future.”
García was up days later, and in the month-and-a-half he’s been up he’s put up solid stats at the plate, and made some mistakes and errors in the field, but his manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters Friday night he’s seen plenty of positives from the young shortstop, and their organization is getting a good idea of what they have at this point in his development.
Going into Saturday night’s game, García had a .289/.298/.404 line, 11 doubles, a triple, two home runs, two walks, and 36 Ks in 43 games and 171 plate appearances. He’d made a total of nine errors in the field, two fielding and seven throwing, showing where he’s got to make improvements, but also plenty of potential.
“We really want to see if he can play shortstop,” Martinez explained, “and get him up here and get him on — like I said, with [Third Base and infield coach Gary DiSarcina] and [First Base and infield coach Tim Bogar], get him on a solid routine and see. We always said — and I said this — as a second baseman, his feet, his footwork needed to get better, needed to get quicker, and he’s actually worked really hard to do that.
“We’re going to give him an opportunity to play shortstop for right now, and like I said, when I’m watching him out there, and watching him fielding ground balls, now he’s starting to get in a good position a lot more than he ever has, so if he can do that, I think the throwing issue is going to go away. And he sets his feet up, he throws the ball, he turns his shoulders to his target, and when he releases the ball, the ball should go to where his target is, so all the stuff, like I said, we got to continue to work with him.”
Martinez said the Nationals also had some organizational staff with the club in Arizona over this weekend, to evaluate talent and work with young players like García to assess how the entire roster is performing.
“They’re going to — I want them to work with the guys — those guys, [Infield Coordinator] Jose Alguacil] has been around for a very long time,” Martinez said. “[Senior Advisor, Player Development, David Jauss] has been around for a very long time. They know the game. I know Alguacil has worked with Luis [García] in the minor leagues, when he was down there, so I just wanted him to keep an eye on him and see if there’s anything that he’s doing different than he was down there. But they’re here to evaluate not just one player, but all our team.
“That’s what I love about these guys: When they come up here, they evaluate our club. We get scouted by other clubs, I like when our guys come in and be able to evaluate our club and we have conversations about what we need to do to get better.”
The fifth-year skipper said the organization’s infield coordinator was actually impressed by the progress García’s made since he’s been back up and working on honing his craft.
“We were out there with him today, Alguacil was out there watching him and talking to him, and kind of gave him a thumbs up and says, ‘Hey, his footwork is good, he’s getting better. So, everything else will come.”
Martinez was asked if he was concerned García had slipped some, or was getting into bad habits, but he said there was nothing the infielder did to prompt the attention he’s getting.
“No, he’s actually — after talking to [Alguacil] and he watched [García] take ground balls, he said his footwork is actually a little bit better, so it’s good, and he has improved, he really has.
“I know he’s had some lapses where he’s thrown the ball away, but as far as getting better jumps on balls, his routine has been a lot better.”