By: Rich Arleo
Avisail Garcia, Outfielder, Chicago White Sox
2014 season (Minors): 13 G, 50 AB, .340 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .837 OPS
2014 season (Majors): 46 G, 172 AB, .244 BA, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, .718 OPS
For a player with parts of three Major Leagues seasons on his resume, it’s still relatively unknown what kind of big league player Avisail Garcia will be.
A once highly-touted prospect, Garcia was signed as a 17-year-old International free agent by the Tigers and came up through their system to make his MLB debut in 2012. But Garcia still needed seasoning and was up and down in ‘13 while also being the main target of the White Sox in the Jose Iglesias-Jake Peavy trade. He finished that year playing for five teams — the Tigers and White Sox in the bigs, and three different Minor League teams. He put forward a .379/.431/.561 slash line all together in the Minors, and a pretty decent .283/.309/.422 line with seven homers, 31 RBIs and three steals in 72 games between Detroit and Chicago.
It looked as though Garcia was ready to take the next step in right field for the White Sox last season, but things didn’t go exactly to plan. After just eight games, and just one day after having a two-homer game, Garcia injured his shoulder and had to undergo major shoulder surgery. He was expected to be out the entire season, but began a rehab assignment in August and batted .340/.377/.460 in 14 games for Triple-A Charlotte. Unfortunately, he struggled upon his return to Chicago, managing to bat just .244, though he still managed a slightly above league average with a 102 OPS+.
Now hopefully fully recovered, Garcia will need to really take the next step and put forth a consistent, healthy season for the White Sox, or else it may be time for Chicago to start looking in a different direction in right field. Despite have 497 plate appearances in the bigs, Garcia is still just 23 years old, so there’s still hope that he hasn’t realized his potential quite yet.
For someone listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Garcia is extremely athletic. He stole 23 bases in the Minors in 2012, and was 4-for-5 on the basepaths for the White Sox last season. He’s not far removed from his tremendous ‘13 Minor League numbers, and there’s reason to believe he can finally put it together this year with a 20-homer, 10-steal season. Steamer projections have him a bit lower with 17 homers (which would be a season high at any level) and eight steals in 123 games, though the projected .264 average would be a bit disappointing. Considering his .272 career big league average, that’s not far off, but that also includes the .244 he hit returning from shoulder surgery last year.
Garcia was off to a hot start this spring, going 13-for-32 (.406) with two doubles, four RBIs and a steal in his first 11 games. Health is key, as it is with every player, but there’s no doubting the potential Garcia has as a middle-of-the-order presence in an improved White Sox lineup.