Monday, December 31, 2012

Greg Garcia Scouting Report

The Texas League (AA) had some really good shortstops in 2012. The headliner was obviously Jurickson Profar, but Josh Rutledge went on to have a little success in the Majors with the Rockies later in the year, Leury Garcia (when he wasn't stuck at 2nd) is an intriguing prospect, and Jean Segura was one of the main pieces that got the Angels Zack Greinke for the last 2 months of the season (and Segura has a shot of starting for the Brewers in 2013). However, none of those were the league's best hitter, as the best hitting middle infielder (qualified 2nd baseman or shortstops) was the Cardinals' Greg Garcia. In a league where the average player was about 24 years old, Garcia was 22 (meaning he wasn't too old for the league).

Since being drafted out of the University of Hawaii in the 7th round of the 2010 draft, Garcia has hit well in every level he has been in. He has 146 walks (12.3 %) and 185 strikeouts (15.6 %) so far in his career and had a 137 wRC + / 117 wOBA + /132 OPS + in AA in 2012. This kind of hitting makes it hard not to be noticed.

Supposedly, the Springfield Cardinals park is friendly for lefties, but it has played basically Texas League average (the league average slash line is .257/.327/.391) over the last two seasons as a whole. So while there are some reasons to be skeptical of his very slight power jump (.136 ISO and 10 homers versus .125 career ISO and just 6 homers in the 163 games before 2012). He did hit for more power at home (.454 SLG to .383 SLG on the road), but was a better OBP guy on the road. This is most likely who he is, a high OBP, low power guy, a skillset that works when you are a middle infielder. He has an extremely high GB % (over 50% in 2012), so it is unlikely that his high BABIPs (.320 and over in every level so far) will translate to the Majors. So there are some reasons to be a little skeptical of his bat statistically, at least not being as excited about him as his numbers say we should be. In watching him at the plate, the scrawny looking player has what looks like a quick bat along with some good bat control. He isn't afraid to uppercut his swing, which might be more of a concern (because of the inevitability of infield pop-ups and what appears to be below average power) if he didn't have such a high ground-ball percentage. The swing is smooth and he keeps his head on the barrel and the follow through is really pretty to watch.

While he had a positive FRAA in the APPY league in 2010, he mainly played second base. He had a negative FRAA in 2012, but he played only shortstop. With that said, he did have a better than average range factor at shortstop, making it seem like his 20 errors were the reason he didn't rate positively. Obviously when you are looking at prospects, it is much less worrisome if they lack polish defensively than whether or not they actually have the athleticism for the position. It seems that Garcia has plenty of athleticism, as I've clocked him as an above average runner, and he had a 5.1 speed score in 2012 (and throughout his short minor league career, he has hovered around 5.0). With that said, he isn't much of a stolen base threat, stealing just 18 bases (with 11 caught stealings) over the last two seasons. He appears to have a strong arm, further solidifying his role as a solid middle infielder.

Despite not showing up on hardly any Cardinals' prospect rankings from what I have seen, there is a lot to like about Garcia. Even if he moves to 2nd more permanently, that still provides him with good positional value and there are a lot of reasons to think that he will hit in the Majors. I don't see him hitting for much power, but he has good peripherals, along with a good average (that is, he isn't relying solely on walks, as prospects that do tend not to pan out. Of course, many of them are 1st base/DH types with slow bat speed) in the minors. There isn't anything alarming in his swing and he takes a lot of pitches. He does have big platoon splits in the minors, but they weren't as bad in 2012, as he held his own against lefties. Left-handed hitting middle infielders with solid/average tools are valuable (at the very least he is a platoon, and the good kind, one that can play 75 % of the time, utility infielder) and he is a guy that could help the Cardinals soon.

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