Willy Garcia’s Power is Returning, Now With Fewer Strikeouts

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.

  • There’s a 4th OF spot waiting for you as soon as you are ready Willy. He has not been great against lefties this year. If he can come out and do that at Indy in 2016 there will be a place for him on the mlb roster for sure at some point.

  • Broxton or Garcia? Plus Decker, Harrison?
    Decker seems like the trade piece and one of the other two are your fourth outfielder.
    It seems to me that developing Garcia would have more value to the system as a young power hitter with his defense will only get more and more valuable as he gets better with plate discipline. Broxton is limited to more of an athletic fourth with some power?

    • I do not think Decker would bring you back anything in a trade, other than being a throw in. For any significant return, Garcia is the only trade piece out of Broxton, Decker, and Garcia.

  • If he continues to cut down his K rate and develops over the next 10 months, he would be a nice 4th outfielder to fill in on a consistent basis for Polanco, Marte, and Cutch next summer. That would undoubtedly be the best outfield 1-4, in all the bigs (assuming Polanco continues to develop as well).

    It would be nice to have him this year to eliminate us having to put SRod in the outfield in case of injury and next year would allow J-Hay to focus primarily on infield.

    What a nice roster we could have next July if everyone gets and stays healthy.

    2B Hanson
    RF Polanco
    CF Cutch
    3B Kang
    LF Marte
    C Cervelli
    1B Bell
    SS Mercer

    4th OF Garcia
    Ngoepe as late inning defensive specialist
    Backup Catcher Diaz/Stewart depending on if we go to arb with Stewie
    Possibly Lambo
    Alvarez (assuming he returns somehow although doubtful)

    Morton Ugh/Locke Ugh/Kingham?

    Regardless of who the last couple pieces on our bench are, with that lineup, we will definitely have some solid pieces coming off the bench. Not to mention, that entire lineup is essentially home grown. That is the lineup we have been waiting for for years. It’s an exciting time to be a pirates fan!

    • Move Kang to SS and J-Hay to 3rd with Mercer being the Util and I concur. I think J-Hay’s and Kang’s bats make up for any superiority Mercer’s glove may have.

      • That’s certainly an option. I love J-Hays spark off the bench though that he provided last year. Also, after having watched the atrocity that is our defense this year, I’m all about putting the best defensive team on the field as possible. Particularly with our groundball heavy pitching. Plus I think Kang could be a Gold Glove caliber 3rd baseman.

        Either way, it’s a great problem to have and Hurdle will certainly not be short options.

    • Walker is going to be making 9M+ next season. If he’s not on the field, he’s not on the team.

  • piraterican21
    August 13, 2015 11:09 am

    In the past I didn’t think much of Garcia, power is not elite enough to justified the Ks, but I have to admit the improvement made this this year have been encouraging, hoping he finish the year strong and improves on it next year. If he improves enough to be a regular big leaguer perhaps you keep him and trade someone like Marte and get a legit piece back, not the mediocre return that a package that includes Garcia will bring, crazy I know

  • I hope he gets real hot/consistent the rest of the way, so that hopefully, he will be a major chip in a SP trade?

    • You don’t think they could use a player like Garcia may be right now when Marte is down ? Why does he have to end up a chip in a trade ?

      • They need someone to go the other way if they’re getting a SP.

        • Keon Broxton might be a better choice for a trade chip. One of the Pirates’ relative weaknesses is power. Why trade Garcia away when he is one of the few minor leaguers with power potential that has a real shot at MLB?

          • There’s a difference between raw power and usable power.

            As a right handed batter that will rarely have the platoon advantage, I can’t imagine Garcia will have much luck translating his raw power to game action when he’s seeing fastball rates in the 40s.

        • Aww, you are kidding me, right ?

      • Quality OF depth could allow them to move one of the better options if it solves other needs. They can find a decent 4th OF in the system and still move another OFer.

        Seems like a good example of where the FO needs to be wise in evaluating how others teams value their guys. Know who is undervalued, keep him and thats a 4th OF type. Know whose a bit over valued and move him to fill holes.

      • If what you say is true then why didn’t the Pirates call him up ???? Lee may be on to something because there is no room for a starter in the OF.

        • Because genius, I am talking about a hypothetical situation when Garcia is thought ready for MLB.

      • I don’t think he is ready for the majors. He’s had trouble adjusting to new levels and he is still young. I think you would get good defense, but Major League pitchers would eat him up right now

        • I know it’s always stated he’s “a 4th outfielder” “back-end rotation guy” but do you see Garcia as being a regular starting outfielder in the MLB? No bench guy.

          • Right now I’d still say no because I want to see him draw more walks and hit for more power with the lower K rate. His rate is fine now if it comes with more power and this could be the start of it. He seems to have lost a step too, to the point where speed looked a tool for him a few years ago, but it’s average at best now. That’s probably just from filling out. I would say he could probably be a fourth outfield option at some point next year, but if some other team values him as a possible starter, I’d definitely trade him in a second. There are better outfield options behind him

            • I think the relative success of this years crop of rookies shows you that worrying about contact rates can be awfully overblown *IF* the kid also can take a walk and hit the ball hard.

              Garcia’s lack of walks, and specifically lack of pitch recognition as the cause, will be what holds him back from being a regular more than his strikeout rate alone.