Certain organizations just have a knack for success in certain areas. Might be the draft, trade market, free agency, or player development. The Washington Nationals however are equipped with a particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long time. Skills that make them a nightmare for the competition on the International Amateur Market. If you develop Juan Soto and Victor Robles, that won’t be the end of it. If you know how to hit the stuffing out of a baseball they will pursue you, and they will sign you. The next Nationals stud international you should look for, find, and add is shortstop/third-baseman Luis Garcia. No, not that Luis Garcia, or that Luis Garcia either! Not even that one. So many Luis Garcia’s, how will our hero standout? This Luis Garcia. A versatile infielder, with a contact first approach, some power projection, speed, and athleticism. A player that ranked 128th on my mid-season Top 500, and one that will likely be moving into the Top 100 in my next update. Today we’ll take a look at why this Luis Garcia is the one to add. No disrespect to the next Luis Garcia of the Phillies. More on him tomorrow…
Signed by the Nationals in the deep International Class of 2016 for $1.3 million. Garcia was highly regarded at the time, ranking 3rd in the class by Baseball America and 7th by MLB.com. The reports when he signed heavily focused on the strength of his arm and glove, some going as far as to knock the hit tool a little. This is a great example of why many scouting reports can be deceiving or downright wrong when it comes to international players. We really don’t know what we have until we see them stateside. At that point the rubber meets the road a little, and we learn who these guys are, and can project what they can become. When Garcia came stateside in 2017 he made a statement. Over 49 Gulf Coast League games, as a 17 year old, he slashed .302/.330/.387 with just 32 strikeouts over 211 plate appearances. Not flashing a ton of power, but showing the ability to get the bat on the ball, and a good understanding of the strike zone. His plus, bordering on plus-plus speed is apparent, as was his athleticism, steady glove and cannon for an arm. The only thing missing was the power but the last thing to come for these hyper-athletic five tool international kids is the pop.
Garcia entered 2018 in an interesting spot, having shown well in Rookie ball, he, as well as highly touted 2016 signee Yasel Antuna were assigned to Hagerstown of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Initially Garcia struggled, hitting .198/.255/.220 in the month of April. Over his next 55 games he slashed .341/.371/.483, good enough for a wRC+ of 141 over that period. Taking notice the Nationals rewarded Garcia with an aggressive promotion to the High-A Carolina League. So at 18 Garcia embarked on a second half just two levels below the major leagues. Weeks after his debut with Potomac, Garcia was chosen to take part in the Future’s Game at Nationals Park. He got one at bat in the game, drawing a walk. This appearance perhaps set the tone for Garcia’s second half where he slashed .299/.338/.412 over 49 games. That was good enough for a 112 wRC+, not bad for a player than won’t turn 19 until May of next season. The tools are obvious with any extended watching of Garcia, and there’s reasons to believe he could blossom into a 5 tool talent, with possibly Top 50 impact in fantasy leagues one day. In anything over 14 team dynasty leagues Garcia is likely owned, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is an alarm to target this player now before he blows up. Make Garcia one of your top trade targets this off-season, thank me in 12 months. Trust me.
Now that we’ve built-up Garcia and you’re all clamoring to add him, let’s break him down. We’ve gushed about the speed, hit tool, and defensive versatility, but let’s talk about the swing and some areas he needs to improve in. First the swing, it’s a pretty linear plane, leading to loads of line drive contact. It’s also what helps drive much of his plus barrel control, and advanced management of the strike zone. His hands are quick, but the setup is pretty high. Wouldn’t surprise me to see the Nationals drop his hands as he looks to add power in the coming years. He’s a little quick to his front foot still, and doesn’t engage his lower half terribly well. Though his leg kick does help him get some drive. Due to his hands, and the whipy nature of his swing at the moment, he is susceptible to getting eaten up a little high and tight. This really manifests itself in his splits vs lefties. It’s not unusual to see a teenage hitter struggle in same side matchups. But lefty on lefty yielded the following line in 2018 from Garcia, .234/.250/.287. That’s certainly an area of improvement, but at least puts him in the strong side of the platoon splits. None of these knocks are major flaws, but all are areas to monitor development in.
Conclusion: Garcia is already a Top 100 prospect, a jump into the top 25-50 in the next 9-12 months isn’t far fetched.