Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #18 – Willy Garcia

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Luis Heredia, RHP
19. JaCoby Jones, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 18 prospect, Willy Garcia.

18. Willy Garcia, OF

Willy Garcia has some of the best power in the system. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Willy Garcia has some of the best power in the system. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Garcia was once seen as the best prospect out of a group that included Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson. The Pirates paid him a bonus higher than the bonus those two players received, combined, and he was seen as a potential five tool guy. Garcia’s value has dropped since then, in large part to his strikeout issues and lack of walks.

There have been two main areas where Garcia has shown a lot of success – power and defense. He has displayed a lot of home run power in each of the last three years, and the isolated power numbers are trending upwards as he moves up in the minors. The power numbers come with horrible strikeout rates and low walks, but with power becoming rare across the game, that’s a tradeoff teams might be more willing to make going forward.

The defense in right field is also notable, with Garcia earning the “Best Arm” designation in his league from Baseball America in each of his last two seasons. His arm is plus-plus, and rates as the best outfield arm in the system. He has lost some of his speed since he entered the system, but still has enough range to provide value in right field.

Garcia has fallen behind Polanco and Hanson, but is starting to revive his prospect status, and was even added to the 40-man roster over the off-season. He has been trending upwards not only in power, but in average and on-base percentage in each of the last two years. He might not be the five tool guy he was projected to become, but his power and arm give him two very good tools to work with. He could eventually be a starting right fielder in the majors, although his upside with the Pirates is more likely to be a strong fourth outfielder who can provide power and defense and play center field in a pinch.

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  • Right after Pirate Fest, I posted about Hurdle stating he really liked Garcia. I’m a bit surprised and disappointed no journalist/blogger followed up with Hurdle to get him to expound on those thoughts.

  • It would appear that with the 4-5 outfielders the Pirates have now, there would not be much room for Garcia, hate to waste that arm in the infield, but they could work him out at 3rd or 1st just to see if he can play in the infield, 1st base is a position that is not very deep in the system.

    • Third base wouldn’t waste a guy’s arm, but first base sure does. That was the biggest complaint about moving Allie to first.

      • Does anyone know why the Pirates moved Allie to first?

      • Just wait til his late-20’s return to the bullpen if/when his career as a hitter stalls. 😉

        Seriously though, It would be insane to plod along in a career as a AAAA hitter with an arm that can throw baseballs 100 mph at will.

        • It would be even more insane to put him back on a mound also. I know people who watched him in State College after he was signed, and they told me he had absolutely idea where the ball was going. I myself do not really think he is ” plodding along ” right now. He has shown great power, and actually has better plate discipline than Garcia. He has better luck against RH pitching than LH ers.

          • You won’t find a bigger fan of Stetson Allie than me, leo. I think he absolutely has a shot to be a platoon bat, at least.

            My comment only pertained to a hypothetical situation where for whatever reason, his career stalled as a hitter. Seemed like from the start, he never truly bought-in to working on the mound. I wonder if that would change if faced with the decision of whether or not to prolong his career as a ballplayer or move on to his life’s work as a…

            • NMR, I thought maybe you were one of the Allie skeptics, many of whom are also Willy Garcia boosters. If you take a good look at and compare their peripheral numbers from AA, you begin to see that one might be a better power hitting prospect than the other, and it would surprise many here which one it is.

  • Lee Foo Young
    January 7, 2015 1:13 pm

    I see WG as a AAAA player at best (unless his plate discipline miraculously improves) so if we can get something good from another org for him (infield, pitching are my top 2) I hope we go for it.

    Unless something catastrophic happens to our Big 3, WG will get passed by in our org by others, anyway?

    Is it coincidence that our #18 & #19 players are similar in nature? Big HR bats with little plate discipline? 11-20, to me, are players with some big skills, but bigger question marks.

    • Down the road if Polanco cant hit Lefties, he may be the ideal platoon partner. A 4th OF could see 300+ ABs a year. Since the Pirates will never be able to afford to buy Power in Free Agency, they will be forced to develop it on their own.

      • Except Polanco has no solid history of struggling against LHP. So really anyone making any argument or hint of argument about possible Polanco struggles against LHP is using the SSS of at bats in his rookie season. Gregory Polanco may never get better against LHP in the bigs, or he may do what many rookies do and get better with at bats and show more of what he did in the minors. Polanco does not profile as a platoon option at all, again unless we are assuming he does not improve at all from his first 200-300 at bats.

        • While it may be a small sample size, it’s the only one against the level of competition he’ll be seeing in the future. Stats aside, there’s no doubt pitchers attacked him inside, and succeeded.

          Any 6′-6″ player is going to inherently have enough length in his swing to make you worry about him being exploited inside, so I don’t think you can completely dismiss what we saw last year.

          He certainly won’t be a career .190s BABIP hitter against LHP as he was in 2014, and I most certainly do not think he’s a future platoon candidate given his skill on the bases and in the field. But I’d say it’s completely reasonable to suggest he’ll have some sort of platoon issue at the plate.

          • I just fundamentally disagree, particularly thanks to his minor league track record. If he showed glimpses of struggling against LHP the last 2-3 years, id buy in. But other than one of his short stints in A ball, he has hit LHP better than RHP at most stops. If he was going to show signs of being rough against LHP, the arms in AA and particularly AAA would have shown some of it. I’ll say he may not hit .300 against LHP, but everything about his plate discipline and history shows a guy that will be fine against LHP. At this point, its just not reasonable for me to assume his first 250ish at bats are proof of a career problem. It’ll have to play out all of this year as well to make a believer out of me.

            • First of all, you’re simply mistaken in believing he never “showed glimpses of struggling against LHP in the last 2-3 years”.

              “There are some nuance aspects he must continue to improve upon—namely…covering the inner-third of the plate, and hitting breaking balls”

              Straight out of BP’s 2014 Prospect Report and they weren’t alone. One of, no, actually the only knock on his offensive game that scouts consistently mentioned was his ability to pick up quality spin and cover the inside half against good stuff.

              And there’s the fallacy in placing judgement on overall batting numbers at the minor league level. “Good stuff” isn’t ubiquitous. He wouldn’t be the first, or the last to fall into this category.

              Regardless, I never came close to saying his 2014 was enough to “assume his first 250ish at bats are proof of a career problem”. I said that it’s reasonable to believe he may end up with some sort of platoon split. Not exactly going out on a limb.

              • So he has to work on cover that half of the plate, but we can ignore that he HIT LHP WELL the season before and the season of that posting? Yes, his frame means he can improve on the inner third, but that did not stop him from hitting better against LHP than RHP at nearly every stop he met. I see you say its reasonable to assume he may end up needing a platoon, and the evidence for that is scouts saying he could cover the inner third better (while he hits fine against LHP during the time) and his size. Yes, minor league numbers arent perfect, but you cant ignore them completely. That would be saying ignore all numbers from any level of play in the minors because they arent perfect.

                Polanco may not hit LHP at a huge clip, but there is little to suggest from his play the last 3 years that he struggles finding a way to do so at any level he has played. Mostly, i just think this is all a huge way of saying “since you struggled against LHP in your first 250 at bats, its not crazy to think you will do that for the foreseeable future”.

                • You apparently don’t understand the definition of “ubiquitous”.

                  And as for needing a platoon, I quite literally said the complete opposite.

                  “…and I most certainly do not think he’s a future platoon candidate given his skill on the bases and in the field.”

        • True. But it is in the Pirates best interest to build as much depth and have as many options as possible. This team has one legit superstar, which means 23 players can be upgraded.

          • Surely depth is good, and keeping Garcia around is a fine idea. I just dont see Garcia being needed to platoon with anyone in this OF for about 4 years.

            • Why 4 years? That is a long time in baseball.

              • Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte have cemented their spot in CF and LF and dont require any platoon. Leaving one spot, where an immensely talented individual resides that has better speed and defense than Garcia and a bat that is, by any honest estimation, is currently better and will get better. All 3 guys under contract.

              • Because he will probably never get over his problems with plate discipline.

  • Considering that AAA has to find playing time for Rojas, Decker, Lambo, Tabata, Gorkys H, and Broxton; I think it would make sense to have Willy Garcia repeat AA to work on his plate discipline and strikeout issues. (Either Broxton or Gorkys will probably join him.) Then there is the issue of power numbers dropping at Victory Field reducing trade value. Garcia probably should have repeated a level earlier in his career, but AA Altoona needed outfielders because they traded for Broxton and re-signed/then cut Quincy Lattimore. Now, they still need outfielders in AA, while AAA is filled and nothing coming up this year from high A. Perfect time for Garcia to repeat and put it all together.

    • I doubt very much that Gorkys Hernandez will see much of Altoona this season.

      • I agree that Garcia should probably repeat AA. At least for half the season. He needs to decrease his strikeouts by 5% or so and hopefully increase his walks a little too. He has met the challenge of every promotion so far though.

        • Lee Foo Young
          January 7, 2015 1:17 pm

          He has met the challenge of every promotion so far though.

          I agreed until you wrote that last sentence. I would argue that he has NOT met the plate discipline challenge at any level.

        • He has put up decent stats in some areas at every promotion, but that K/BB ratio has not been met at any level. If his K rate and BB persist, he is unlikely to stick as a ML starter. Which for PIT purposes would be fine if we kept him as a bench OFer, but any team offering to trade for him will surely point out that the kid has not really shown great improvement in an area that is always a red flag.

        • If he decreases his strikeout numbers 5 %, he will be getting into Stetson Allie’s range. But what happens if he doesn’t maintain that .361 BABIP ? Then he is definitely in the Allie category as a hitting prospect. So why would he be bound to be pushed to AAA ? To my eyes, he has a few more challenges to meet at AA.

          • I feel like with that BABIP he could repeat AA improve his plate discipline and cut down strikeouts and still hit around the .271 he hit last year. Improving those peripherals definitely more important to his future as an MLB player than hitting for average…although if he tore AA up it would mean he has had a breakthrough.

  • Why shouldn’t Willie Garcia be tried at 3B? I know that he has no history there. But with a rocket arm and power bat he exhibits some tools which would profile well there.

  • Tim Williams: “…that’s a tradeoff teams might be more willing to make going forward.”

    leadoff: “…many teams will take what Garcia brings to the table.”

    Continues to amaze me how good you are at reading what you WANT to read.

    • Tetrapharmakos
      January 7, 2015 11:35 am

      I am confused. What is the implication here?

      • “might” and “will” have different definitions, according to the English language.

        leadoff constantly argues that Garcia is more than he is, and I believe it’s intellectually dishonest to twist Tim’s words as he did above.

        • Tetrapharmakos
          January 7, 2015 12:45 pm

          I guess there is a history that I am not aware of, but slipping from the subjunctive to the indicative mood seems like a relatively innocuous mistake on its own.

        • I am not sold on his defensive ablity yet either. His arm is certainly a major tool, his instincts ? Not so much. Which leads to many poor routes and angles. The thought of him in CF at this time is kind of scary. Right field was a bit challenging for him in Altoona.

          • I can’t offer any opinion of his defense myself, but arm strength is easily the most overrated defensive skill.

        • Now this is funny.. i’ve seen many times where you’ve done a lot of twisting yourself. . You’ve more then once have almost just made something up and put it in quotes to allude that it was my point.. if you’re throwing stones, you’re not standing on high ground so you might want to aim up

    • Lee Foo Young
      January 7, 2015 1:15 pm

      To quote Jack in Mars Attacks: “Can’t we all just get along?”

      All we are quoting are opinions, anyway. Can we just keep personal attacks to ourselves?

      • Personal? The guy took something Tim wrote and made it something else. I pointed it out.

        There’s nothing personal about that.

        • Lee Foo Rug Bug
          January 7, 2015 2:54 pm

          Well, NMR, if you can’t see where the ‘personal’ part came into play, I guess there’s not much more to say on the subject then.

  • He is not likely to cut down on his strikeouts very much and he is not likely to get many walks. Players with long swings and power strike out a lot, if they swing a lot they are not going to get many walks. Like the post says, many teams will take what Garcia brings to the table. I would think it would take a pretty good player to pry Garcia away from the Pirates.

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