Willy Garcia Making Huge Strides After Move to Center

Willy Garcia has been on quite a tear against opposing Eastern League pitchers as of late. He is currently riding an 18-game hitting streak after Saturday night’s game for the Curve, which is three shy of the Curve’s franchise record of 21. During the streak, Garcia’s numbers have certainly impressed with a .377/.415/.649 slash line for an OPS of 1.064.

As we dig into these numbers and the reasons why Garcia may be producing now, let us remember where we were with Willy Garcia at the beginning of the year. In April, Garcia had a very respectable batting average of .295, but his strikeout rate was through the roof at 33%, and he only had two extra base hits in the whole month for a measly ISO of .049.

On May 15th, Garcia was taking batting practice in Altoona when he was hit in the face with another bat, an injury that sat him for the next week while he recovered (he was not diagnosed with a concussion). In those 13 games in the beginning of May before his injury”, Garcia’s average dipped to .265 and his ISO to .041; however, he only struck out three times on those 53 plate appearances.

I wrote in that May 15th article that Garcia needed to find a way to continue with the trend of less strikeouts while finding his power stroke of the past. Garcia talked at the time about taking a new approach to the plate with two strikes.

“I work to select a good pitch in the zone [earlier in the count], and I feel pretty good right now,” Garcia said. “I am not trying to do too much when I get two strikes, now. Last year, I tried to do too much when I had two strikes. Now, I swing just to try to get the ball in play.”

During that span earlier in the season, Garcia was intentionally working on hitting with two strikes, and the results that he was used to getting in the past were not there. The Pirates goal with Garcia going into this season was to cut down on the strikeouts and hope that the results would come in the process.

On May 22nd, Garcia was inserted back into the Curve lineup and has produced a slash of .356/.396/.589 since. That would mean an ISO of .233, a huge turnaround from where he was in April and early May. The strikeout rate has come back to earth a little since, but a 20.6% strikeout rate will certainly do for Garcia. He hit his first home run of the season on May 28th and now has five total on the year. He also has four doubles and a triple in that span between May 22nd and today.

Another factor in the huge turnaround for Garcia may be a psychological part of the game that cannot be represented by numbers. Keon Broxton was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis shortly after Garcia’s return to the lineup on May 28th. Broxton and Garcia played together in Altoona all of last season, and both have been compared to each other often, having a similar upside as a Major League player.

When Broxton was promoted, Garcia made his way to center field to take over as the Curve’s every day center fielder. The move to center field has helped him thrive, showing off his extreme arm strength and his speed. He also became the leader of the Curve outfield on a team that is winning a lot of games and sitting at the top of the Eastern League standings.

Psychologically, Garcia may have needed to flip a switch after Broxton’s promotion, with a “if he can do it why can’t I” attitude. Curve Manager Tom Prince will agree that a change like that can definitely motivate a young man to perform.

“A young player always has something to prove, to themselves and to everyone else,” Prince said. “Willy is having a fun time playing center field, and that will make a difference in how you go about your business. He has the arm strength, speed, and power to man an important position like center field. He’s making people change their minds and opinions on him now, and it has been fun to watch.”

Neal Huntington spoke with the Pittsburgh media Sunday, including our own Nate Barnes, and talked about what Garcia needs to do to move up.

“Willy and Keon Broxton both probably deserve to go to Triple-A,” Huntington said. “The challenge is when you’re a playoff-caliber team you’re looking at depth options in Triple-A, sometimes you block a prospect that’s maybe ready to go to the next level…In Willy’s case, we challenged him to command the zone better…and he’s been doing that. When he stays in the zone he’s a threat, he’s got great bat speed, he’s got great power. When he makes pitchers come to him he’s going to do damage…Willy’s getting very close to being ready to take that next challenge as well.”

If you are someone who would rather skip all of the statistics and just find out more about a player, I will help you out. In short, Willy Garcia has been extremely good for the Curve. Through more than two months of this season, he has certainly improved on the aspects of the game that the Pirates have asked him to improve. Continued success in power numbers and a respectable strikeout rate is exactly what Willy Garcia needs to do to continue his development.

  • I love how as soon as a kid starts to look like a potential major leaguer people want to figure a way to trade him! If you haven’t noticed we don’t need Cole Hammels. Locke anchored a shutout last time out. If any consideration is being made for change it would be for Clay Richards who has a 1.65 ERA in 8 starts that would look appropriate in our current rotation.

  • You guys sure want to trade everyone for Hamels but as I had said previously those trades usually do not produce more wins then staying pat. I would like to see an upgrade in the #5 starter position but not at the expensive of giving up the farm. No 70 game rental player is worth trading for. Look at was given up for Byrd. He did make a difference but at what cost? We will see Herrera for the next few years producing for the Mets and Byrd flew the coop after the season.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 14, 2015 11:59 pm

    My wife and I were in Altoona over the weekend, and we went to the Curve game last night. They played New Hampshire, the Toronto AA team. I am not a professional scout – in fact, I am not even an amateur scout – but, I do love and follow the game – and here are some of my random observations on last night’s game….a game that the Curve rallied from 5-1 down to win 8-5:
    (1) Matt Benedict started for Altoona. He does not look like a prospect to me, and I cannot see him making it the majors. He does not throw very hard (mostly 88-89 – I think he hit 90 once) and he was hit hard and often. If it was not for the fact that NH hit 4-5 extremely hard shots right at people, they would have scored even more than the 5 they did score off of Benedict.
    (2) Jeff Inman relieved Benedict and was very impressive – pitched two scoreless (and hitless I believe) and struck out 5.
    (3) Stetson Allie was crushing the ball last night. He hit a HR over the left center bleachers and up on the hill towards the parking garage. That was well over 400 feet. He also hit two very hard frozen rope doubles down the left field line.
    (4) I was also very impressed with Max Moroff – he had two doubles that were hit to deep left center, plus a single.Played flawlessly in the field as well.
    (5) I must be a jinx to Josh Bell, because I have seen him play 3-4 times now, and I don’t think I’ve seen him hit a ball hard yet. He did get a walk.
    (6) Garcia and Osuna both had their moments, and Jacob Stallings had a 3 run double that gave the Curve the lead in the 7th inning.

    Why does Toronto have Dalton Pompey in AA, and not AAA? He was Toronto’s starting center fielder on opening day, and now he is in AA? Dwight Smith, Jr looks like a keeper – he hit a couple of really hard shots.

    It was a fun game to watch – a lot of hitting.

    • You can’t use the stadium radar gun in Altoona to judge any pitcher’s velocity without adding 2 to 3 mph to what you saw. It is off that much and varies at times.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        June 15, 2015 10:37 am

        Thanks for pointing that out – I was not aware. So, Benedict was in the 91-93 range, if what you are stating is correct? I wondered about Inman, because he supposedly threw very hard – and it looked like he was throwing very hard – yet he was just showing 92-93 by the stadium radar gun.

        • Sean McCool
          June 15, 2015 2:53 pm

          The gun is just extremely inconsistent. Most fastballs are a couple MPH slow, and breaking balls are all just flat out wrong.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 14, 2015 11:44 pm

    To all the naysayers, Willy Garcia is really coming on – and its nice to see.

  • I remember when Willy was my second favorite teenaged international outfielder behind Exicardo Cayones. His plate discipline has been nonexistent for the majority of his career but he’s made some strides as a prospect and my gut feeling is he’ll make it and have a good mlb career..in Pittsburgh or elsewhere

  • WHY not just use are minor league guys instead of trading them. also where exactly do we need so much help. The starting rotation looks good ,we have bull pen help at indy, tabata and hart could be dfa for hansen and decker or diaz if you want 3 catchers ,Tallion maybe ready with in the month if locke falters.

  • Personally I’ve been ignoring Garcia, he made nowhere near enough contact to be successful. But now he is a little more interesting, still it is rare for guys to carry that BABIP ability up through the levels.

  • Wow if it worked on him I can think of a few guys on the big league roster who should be hit in the head during batting practice.

  • I know it won’t happen and I’m not getting my hopes up, but man would Hamels look good in this rotation? Cole, Hamels, Burnett, Liriano, and Morton? A package starting with one of the 2 catchers, Garcia, Locke, probably an additional piece which is where I’d be hesitant, one of the pitchers. Okay, back to reality!

    • meatygettingsaucy
      June 14, 2015 5:36 pm

      Ruben Amaro (or, as he is known by some of the Phillies fans: Ruin Tomorrow) is asking for ridiculous packages for him. Assuming you are referring to McGuire or Diaz in addition to what you’ve already mentioned would not be even close to what he wants. Think more like: Glasnow, Garcia, McGuire, and Ramirez if they eat a large sum of his salary. Tick Ramirez off that list if we pick up a majority of the money

      • Yep here are some of the rumored asking prices for Hamels.

        Last trade deadline from the Dodgers: Joc Pederson (#8 Overall in Baseball America’s Top 100), Corey Seager (#5), and Julio Urias (1#0).

        Over the winner from New York: Luis Serevio (#35) and Aaron Judge (#53).

        From Boston: A package center around Mookie Betts ( 3.0 WAR in 450 PAs) or Blake Swihart (#17).

        And any rumors that include Glasnow in the deal don’t know what they are talking about.

    • No chance that deal works it to finished. I dont see any way they move Hamels without getting a top type prospect in return, so thats Taillon/Glasnow for us. Start with one of those names, add in 1 B type and a few fillers and thats where i see the asking price. I like Hamels, but i’d rather go for a middle rotation arm (and asking price) and feel good.

      • I think you can afford to let go of Hanson, Ramirez, Garcia, and Diaz and maybe Sampson – for Hamels with the Phillies taking half of the salary. Would would quite realistically be 3 starters for next year and Ramirez and Garcia for 2017. If they think they can do better than that, they are nuts. It wouldn’t hurt as at all other than putting us in play to give cervelli an extension. Hamels replaces Sampson, Ramirez has no place to play nor does Garcia, and really neither does Hanson.

        • Hanson has no place to play? If you extend Walker maybe. Hanson absolutely has a spot to play with Walker becoming expensive and less productive. Only way you dont see a spot for Hanson is if you slot Kang at 3B, Mercer at SS, and Kang at 2B and assume no one struggles. For depth, you absolutely can use Hanson if Mercer’s offense continues to be streaky.

          You can make that trade, but your infield defense loses quality depth. You gotta keep Walker or hope Moroff keeps developing quickly. You also lose C depth, and have Sanchez as the “in case of emergency” option and hope Cervelli stays healthy.

          You are always gonna lose quality to get quality, but Hamels isnt who i want. He has faced some of the easiest opponents (figured out via stats, so sorry to upset you) so his greatness may be inflated…along with his price tag. I think this team can get a quality improvement for much less in Jeff Samardzjia. Fine middle rotation arm, far less price tag, you keep some quality (and cheap) future players.

      • Well, the pitchers implied were Taillion and Glasnow. The catchers were McGuire and Diaz. My bad for not spelling them out

      • My problem there is if you don’t go big, how much of an upgrade are you getting over Locke? Maybe trade for one of the rentals like Kazmir.

        • Jeff Samardzjia. Less of a price tag, clear upgrade over Locke (unless you only look at ERA), and if anything his ugly ERA and somewhat worse year than normal dampens the price. The one glaring difference this year for Samardzjia has been lack of ground balls, something a trip to PIT tends to help.

  • This kid could be a major trade chip come July.

    • Kerry…that is my thinking, also, because, as of now, he has nowhere to play in Pgh.

    • No single minor league prospect such as Garcia would be considered a ” major trade chip “. Glasnow, and possibly Taillon would be.

      • Major would be an over statement on my part but he could still be a piece if he continues to improve. Who even knows what their plans are. There’s not much they can do that they’ll be willing to do.

        But one thing is certain, they have a lot of talent on the way, and not a lot spots to put it.