The Chicago White Sox announced that they have claimed outfielder Willy Garcia from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Garcia was designated for assignment on December 31st to make room on the 40-man roster for pitcher Ivan Nova.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) January 6, 2017
Garcia was once a highly touted prospect in the system despite high strikeout numbers. That was due to his age and tools, which included the best outfield arm in the system and above average raw power. The Pirates signed him in 2010 for $280,000 and added him to the 40-man roster two years ago. He was ranked 20th in the farm system coming into 2016, but he had a very difficult season and dropped out of consideration for our top 50 in the 2017 prospect guide even before he was designated for assignment. He failed to make our mid-season top 50, ending up in the “just missed” category, but he fell from that group as well when we compiled the rankings for the guide.
Part of his fall in the rankings came from diminished tools. He used to have decent speed, but he has clearly lost a step or two over the years. While the arm is as strong as ever, the defense wasn’t as strong overall, mostly due to declining range. Garcia continued to have strikeout issues this year and he ended up with just six home runs. When he tried to hit for more average and cut down on the strikeouts, he became a singles hitter. When he started swinging for fences, the strikeouts increased and the average dropped. Garcia has never shown the ability to be patient at the plate, which has resulted in low walk totals every season. He’s now 24 years old, with just one option remaining and he is coming off a very poor performance (.462 OPS) in winter ball as well.
The Pirates will open the Triple-A season with Austin Meadows, Barrett Barnes, Jose Osuna and free agent signing Eury Perez, who at 26 already has four partial seasons in the majors. So they have outfield depth to replace Garcia, who would have used a third option this season, since he is not Major League ready at this point. Unless he makes a huge turnaround in his new setting, it’s unlikely his upside now is anything more than a depth outfield option.