Pittsburgh Pirates 2016 Top Prospects: #20 – Willy Garcia

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While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

We start the countdown with the number 20 prospect, Willy Garcia.

20. Willy Garcia, RF

There was a time when Garcia was considered to be a better prospect than Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson. He had five tool potential, with a lot of raw power and the best arm in the system. His value has dropped since then, although he still features the best raw power in the system, and the best outfield arm in the system.

Garcia’s issues have largely revolved around a high strikeout total and a low walk total. He was striking out in a third of his at-bats in 2013 and 2014 between Bradenton and Altoona, which really limited his production. That was a big focus for him heading into the 2015 season.

After another slow start in Altoona, Garcia cut his strikeouts down to 15.6% from May 1st until mid-June, when he was promoted to Indianapolis. The downside to this is that his power took a dip during this same stretch. The success was due to shortening his swing with two strikes, leading to more contact and a higher average. He started slow after the move to Indianapolis, but finished strong in August with an .884 OPS. His strikeout rate was still high, but better than numbers in prior years.

The 2015 season saw two versions of Garcia. One was a guy who hit for average and didn’t strike out, but lacked power. The other had power, struck out less than before, but didn’t hit for average. Neither drew walks, and Garcia’s former speed has declined, making him a right field only option, and removing the threat on the bases. If he can learn to combine both approaches, he could emerge as a starter in the majors, with the potential for a lot of offensive value, and an elite arm out of right field. He’s still very young, so that development is possible. If that doesn’t happen, he would make a great fourth outfielder, with a lot of value coming from his arm and power off the bench.

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  • I still think Wily will be a good call up this year and come in handy. He definitely can put a charge into a few and his arm is a pretty darn accurate gun. I hope he doesn’t get traded because it could be another Jay Buhner or Tony Armas loss.

  • It would be a nice if you could include the prospect’s age and how they were acquired.

  • Best arm since Jose Guillen? I saw him throw an absolute bulls eye from deep center to 2nd base.

    • Got to see both him and Allie in the same OF. Both have absolute cannons. Garcia can be a great fit as a 4th (or 5th) OF in Pittsburgh. Really don’t need OF defensive options so power off the bench would be a huge plus.
      If Morris struggles, that could be the roster spot.

  • This might be more of a question for the book but it is about Garcia… The 4.5/Medium seems like it could just as easily have been a 4.0/Low or a 5.0/High. (I’m assuming high risk because of how much work he would need to do to “fix” the strikeout thing, since that is not easy to do.)

    How do you guys settle on the grade? Is it most likely outcome? Or highest probable outcome?

    • The grade is the average of all of the most likely outcomes for all of the ratings that went in to a specific player. That can be anywhere from 3-6 ratings, depending on the player and level. We then make some adjustments later, but nothing too extreme.

      • That makes sense. And I could easily see that being the average based on your site’s reporting. A lot of comments have mentioned concerns about his strikeouts. Do you think that it is something that can truly be fixed? or is it more hopeful to think the power will play so well the K’s won’t matter?

        And do you know if scouts consider some things (hitters striking out less) are more unfixable than others (pitchers developing change ups)?

  • piraterican21
    January 4, 2016 12:32 pm

    What is his production against lefties? I believe that GP will improve his hitting against lefties but if not Garcia might be his platoon partner

  • As far as low walks/high strikeouts prospects go…or, as I like to call it…

    The Hermansen-Marte Scale…

    where would Garcia fall?

    • Garcia would cause you to rename your scale, lets put it that way.

      • Not ratios…but just curious where folks would place him in terms of assumed ML outcome between those two extremes.

        My gut tells me he’s closer to a Marte…but, then again, my gut is also telling me to head out for pizza just four days after my resolution started.

        • Who decided to make Jan 1 a Friday in the first place? That’s bush league right there.

          • Might as well pass a law that states all resolutions on years where this takes place shall henceforth officially start on the Monday following the 1st.

        • As for Garcia, I think his type of hitter – one where pitch recognition and discipline are massive holes – is the second most easily exploited of all types coming out of the minors. Very, very few guys can make a career of any sort out of hitting mistake fastballs when pitchers know that’s about all you *can* hit.

          Without huge strides in discipline – rare for kids who’ve spent six years in pro ball already – you’re looking at a guy who’ll have to run >.350 BABIP’s just to be a .300 OBP hitter. That’s barely acceptable even for a 4th outfielder, especially one who can’t handle CF.

          If Garcia had 70 raw power that would be one thing, but we’re still only talking about a guy who’d gets 6’s at most.

  • This is the type of guy I wish would bloom. Gives you options when making trades or given out extensions.

  • The one thing which confused me about Garcia- is that it seemed that shortening his swing with 2 strikes wouldn’t really affect his power. I mean, how many of his homers have come with 2 strikes historically? It can’t be a high % can it? Why would that carry over to the rest of his abs, maybe psychologic in nature….

    • Power isn’t just home runs, it’s all extra-base hits.

      • Regardless, I find it terribly difficult to imagine that a hitter like Garcia, who is incredibly susceptible to striking out, was doing his damage with two strikes before.

        • The point is that they specifically changed his approach from a swing-for-the-fences swing with two strikes to someone who just tried to put the ball in play. When he was behind in the count with Altoona this year, he had one extra-base hit(a double) in 72 at-bats. He had 15 in 189 at-bats last year, including six homers.

          • And *my* point is it’s very likely the reduction in strikeouts came from putting the ball in play *before* two strikes, which explains Y2’s initial question.

            Although even six homers in 189 AB behind in the count is a lot.

      • okay- that’s true, but my statement still applies. Not a ton of players are trying to hit doubles/triples/homeruns with 2 strikes- that in itself shouldn’t be affecting his “power numbers” so much unless there is something else he is changing outside of his 2 strike swing. right?

    • Tim’s comment was probably more anecdotal than anything.

    • Perfect example of the necessity to know and believe you CAN hit. When a batter goes to the plate with their confidence shaken in any way, then a few hundredths of a second could be dedicated to “thinking” and that is all it takes to fail when the ball is getting to the plate in about 40 hundredths of a second.

      • Mickey Mantle felt that he was not able to hit at the Major league level and called his father to say so. His father said, I thought I raised a man. His attitude changed and he didn’t look back.
        Not all hitting skills are physical to your point emjay. Sometimes it’s all in your head. Not saying that’s Willie’s issue at all by the way.

        I mentioned this maybe yesterday though, who would be the better 4th outfielder right NOW. Garcia or Josh Bell? It’s been mentioned that Hanson would benefit from easing into the Majors by playing a role. Why isn’t that an option for Bell, especially if his bat would / could play like Kyle Schwarber’s with better defense?

        • Bell, easily, and I love your thought.

          Don’t expect Schwarber’s bat out of him, but I think Bell could hold his own as a *starting* left/right fielder right now, let alone backup. OF is his natural position, and one that wouldn’t be as demanding on the bat as 1B.

          I certainly don’t fault them for holding onto Gregory Polanco, but you could easily argue that signing an actual first baseman like Byung-ho Park while trading Polanco for pitching and sliding Josh Bell into an OF/1B role has more upside with no more risk than their current plan.

          • Except Josh Bell needs reps at 1B in order to eventually carry any value as a first baseman. Bringing him up to man the 4th OF/1b bench spot, or even to replace Polanco long term certainly carries more risk. For one, he needs defensive reps at 1B. He can’t do that playing in the OF. NH would probably tell you his offensive game could also use more polish as well. So if the question is which plan carries more risk. Yours does, because Polanco carries more breakout potential this year than Bell. Polanco has defensive upside that Bell doesn’t, in part because Bell hasn’t played the OF in over a year. And to be honest, with no MLB experience at all, Bell has the bigger bust potential as well. We can’t even guarantee what the return for trading Polanco will be, so again, your idea is much riskier.
            The safer play is absolutely what they’re doing now. Polanco is likely to improve somewhat, and the platoon at first doesn’t need to produce awe-inspiring production to be valuable. You let Bell develop as he has and let him take over when you’re sure he’s ready, and don’t just throw him out there halfhazardly

            • I never mentioned jettisoning Polanco. Bell can be a 4th, perhaps our best 4th outfielder and his bat in AAA suggests that he is ready to have a go at the bigs.
              Nobody said anything about half or haphazard either. It’s been noted that easing into a role by playing mostly your bat and your best positions while you work with MLB coaches on other skills is a good thing for Hanson, it’s no different with Bell. He can get reps all day in practice until he shows them he’s ready. Jaso will man the position for the next two years anyway. Are you waiting two years for Bell to arrive? I’m not.

            • You’re presenting a false choice here with the *presumption* that Josh Bell needs more reps at 1B while somehow failing to account for the very, very real risk that Josh Bell simply isn’t a Major League infielder. That possibility absolutely exists, and more so, Bell has a ton of work to do with the bat in order to be an average Major Leaguer at 1B given his projected defensive issues. You mitigate that risk by keeping him at his natural position.

              • Are we even sure Bell is ready to hit major league pitching at all. We’re talking about 121 AAA at bats. No matter which position you shoehorn him into this season, he’s going to likely need more time at AAA. He hasn’t played the OF in 2 years. It’s going to take time in either scenario. Who plays RF in the meantime? Where does this 1B come from? And who do they get back from Polanco? Those are a lot of moving parts in your scenario. That seems like the riskier proposition, because we know what we’re getting in Polanco. We know what veterans Jaso and Morse can provide. Bell is the only question mark.

                • I was assuming the same additional couple hundred AAA at-bats for Bell as would happen regardless, but yes, I trust the projections that have him as an average Major League hitter right now.

                  I find it highly entertaining that we can sit back and say we know what we’re getting in Morse/Jaso, considering the large half of that platoon has played less first base than Josh Bell and the track record of platoons at first base is an absolute dumpster fire.

                  There are certainly more unknowns in a scenario where Polanco is traded and RF opens up for Bell, but that does not necessarily equate with more risk when compared to the current scenario.

                  • The unknown with Jaso is purely on the defensive side of the ball. I’d call it fair to assume we know what his production at the plate should be. Same with Morse. They’re both veterans.

                    • I mean, the ability to play the position you’re supposed to play seems like an awfully important detail.

                    • Catchers move to first base with regularity though. It’s an easier transition. Not everybody is like Pedro Alvarez

                    • Easier transition than what?

                      Regardless, we’re not having a discussion about whether or not it’s possible, we’re having a discussion about risk. If you don’t think there’s a lot of risk involved with Jaso transitioning, you’ll have a hell of a time explaining why the Pirates were the only club willing to sign him as a position player.

          • Not sure why it’s an either or situation, Bell makes a fine 4th, Garcia or someone else a fine 5th. No need to sell on a guy who also has very solid potential.

  • terrygordon30
    January 4, 2016 10:20 am

    The Pirates have come a long way from the days when Willy would have been a top ten prospect!

    • Two players A and B, both 23 – stats last year. One is Garcia, the other is a top 100 prospect in baseball same level and a top 5 (#3 actually) prospect in their organization. My point is that Willy may very well be a top 10 prospect. Not sure I agree with the long way comment. He’s undervalued IMO. His defense is considerably better than this other prospect FWIW.
      A B
      AB’s 511 480
      R’s 65 62
      HR’s 20 15
      RBI 78 67
      SB 5 4
      Ave .272 .275
      OBP .321 .306
      K/BB 5.00 6.33
      OPS .795 .740

      Prospect A – Hunter Renfroe #1 pick and #3 prospect of SD Padres.
      Prospect B – Willy Garcia.

      • Those numbers show that Renfroe is a far better hitter than Garcia. Three one-thousandths of average is the only edge Garcia has, and that’s the least important.

        • Dark seriously, you see a FAR better player? The bat profiles are very similar – small differences and Garcia is a much better defensive player.

          • I see more game power and much better discipline for Renfroe with everything else in their profiles being roughly similar. Most importantly, Garcia has a K% which is typically prohibitive to being a Major League contributor. Renfroe’s is much more manageable.

            I guess I could see their ceilings being similar, but Renfroe’s floor is definitely higher.

          • Man, you gotta reallllllly squint to call the differences in OBP and OPS “small”.

            The difference between .320 and .305 in OBP is hardly small.

      • terrygordon30
        January 4, 2016 4:15 pm

        My comment was not meant to be negative at all concerning Willy Garcia. It was meant as a positive remark about our minor league prospects.

        • Didn’t take it as negative Terry. I’m saying that Garcia being deemed #20 by Tim is based on opinion by him and other pro’s – however compare Garcia to other players such as Renfroe and I’m noting that Garcia may be “rated” lower than his actual value.
          Of course this will all come out in the wash either with the big league team – which I’d personally like to see because I love guys with power bats and strong defense – or with another team through a trade.
          IF he’s traded – I’d argue his value is near to Renfroe who is noted as top 100 prospect in the game.