The Pittsburgh Pirates have designated outfielder Willy Garcia for assignment in order to make room for Ivan Nova on the 40-man roster. The move comes four days after the team officially announced the Nova signing, leaving them with 41 players on the roster during that time. The delay could have been due to the holiday season, with not a lot of action going on around baseball right now.
It’s not a big surprise that Garcia was designated for assignment this offseason. He was once part of a talented group of international hitters in West Virginia, pairing up with Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, Jose Osuna, and Elias Diaz. Garcia could have been considered the best prospect in the group at one point, due to his projectable skills, his plus-plus arm, and his raw power. He moved up in the system over the years, continuing to get the highest grades in the system for his arm strength and some of the highest grades for his raw power. But he had strikeout issues that held him back.
Garcia was striking out over 30% of the time in Bradenton and Altoona in 2013 and 2014. He started to cut down on the strikeouts in 2015 and 2016, dropping to the 26% range in Triple-A. However, this also saw a drop in his power, and he didn’t hit for average or get on base enough to make up for that drop. Garcia would be a three true outcomes guy if he drew walks. Unfortunately, he’s just a guy who mostly hits for power and strikes out a lot, and when the power fell off the table in pairing with only a modest drop in strikeouts, he stopped looking like a prospect.
The Pirates didn’t call him up to the majors in 2015, which wasn’t a surprise. However, they also didn’t call him up in 2016, even though they had a need for outfielders in September with all of their injuries. The fact that he didn’t even get consideration for a promotion at that point showed that his time in the organization could be short-lived.
The thing about Garcia is that he’s still fairly young, just turning 24 at the end of the 2016 season. He still has a lot of raw power and still has the best outfield arm in the system. So a team could claim him with the hopes of finally getting him to figure out his strikeout/power issues. However, at this point I think he’s a long-shot to be anything more than a fourth outfielder in the majors. If he sticks around, I believe the Pirates would have him for one more year before he could be a minor league free agent, since he’s already been tendered a contract for the 2017 season.