Willy Garcia was hitting below the Mendoza line after his first 12 games in Indianapolis, and his power had disappeared at the new level. The average started to return in July, with a .263 average on the month. By the end of the month, Garcia’s power had returned, and returned with a vengeance.
So far in August, Garcia has three doubles and four home runs in just ten games. Consistency was a major issue for Garcia at the end of July, but he has really seen it click so far this month.
“After starting in Double-A, my first couple games here, I felt slow and easy,” Garcia said. “Now I feel much more comfortable.”
Garcia admitted that there have not been huge adjustments to his approach at the plate, but that the speed of the game is what he has adapted to.
“I am waiting for a fastball,” Garcia said. “But when I see an off speed pitch, I react. It is nothing really different. I wait for a fastball, but try to recognize a breaking ball or a changeup.”
Garcia hit 18, 16, and 18 home runs respectively for the past three season, but was off to a slow start in those categories with Altoona to start the season. His isolated power had risen each year, spiking at .207 in 2014. Prior to the promotion, Garcia had only five home runs in 204 at bats with the Curve, along with a .127 ISO. However, the strikeout totals were down as well. In those at bats, he struck out at just a 21% ratio. That’s down from the 30.6% rate last year in Altoona, and the 32.1% rate in Bradenton the year before.
While still down from his numbers the last few years, Garcia has struck out 25.1% of the time with Indianapolis through Wednesday. Some of this could be attributed to the new level, but some could also be attributed to his power resurgence.
Between the two levels, Garcia has hit .288/.328/.431 in 2015, which is also an improvement over his .262/308/.429 minor league line. After a slow start with Indianapolis, Garcia is now hitting .266/.305/.429. His power has gone up since the promotion, with a .164 ISO.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has noticed the progression for Garcia at the level as well.
“He has [heated up lately],” Huntington said. “He’s got tremendous raw power. We’ve challenged him to command the strike zone. We’ve challenged him to hit the pitches that are in the strike zone because when he does that he does significant damage.”
For Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar, consistency every day is the key for Garcia at the plate.
“[Garcia] will show you spurts of it, then lose it, then show you spurts of it again,” Wynegar said. “He even admitted in the cage to me that, for two days, he will feel good. Then three days he doesn’t feel good. He is having a hard time figuring [consistency out in the beginning].”
Wynegar pointed to the adjustment period for Garcia, due to his age. As a 22-year-old, Wynegar said that Garcia is still growing as a hitter and working on coming into his own. He did say that Garcia “is going to play in the big leagues one day, but he is still young mentally and making that adjustment.” However, that adjustment period seems to have sped up now in August.
There was also agreement from Wynegar on looking for the fastball. Adjustments in the middle of the at bats are what he is currently looking for from Garcia.
“My goal for him for the rest of the season is to look for the fastball from pitch one,” Wynegar said. “I want him in position and I want his mindset to be ‘yes, yes, yes’ or ‘yes, yes, shut it down at the last second.’ I don’t want to see any more ‘maybe, maybe’ and then late swings.”
With the power surge, Wynegar also said that he preaches to not go up looking for the home run. He said that he thinks that home runs will naturally come with players with juice in their bat. Power is the last tool to show up, and Wynegar thinks that Garcia is still working on coming into his own in that aspect. Right now the Pirates feel that average is more important than the power for Garcia.
Despite the power surge, Garcia is still struggling with strikeouts, albeit less than in the past. This has been a constant issue for Garcia in his career, but it is still showing now even when he is locked in. Garcia has fanned ten times in ten games this month.
Along with the work at the plate, Garcia has six outfield assists in 41 games with Indianapolis to go along with his eight in 50 games with Altoona. While the numbers are there, Garcia has played all around the outfield at both levels and has shown strong range and a throwing arm at each. This has not been overlooked by the Pirates.
“Defensively, he’s bounced around the outfield, and he probably has as good a throwing arm as we have in the system,” Huntington said. “He’s handled himself in center field very well. Just continue to mature – we sometimes forget that he is young for a level because he’s been around for forever. He’s done a nice job overall in his first taste of Triple-A baseball.”
Garcia has certainly shown flashes after a slow start to the next level. Wynegar is correct in the statement that Garcia is still raw in his power, approach, and swing. The good news is that he is so young, and with the outfield depth toward the top of the organization, he will still have plenty of time to develop.