BRADENTON, Fla. – Yeudy Garcia was the breakout prospect of the year in 2015, and there were some high hopes for his 2016 season. Statistically, he had a good year, with a 2.76 ERA and a 127:54 K/BB ratio in 127.1 innings. But throughout the year, his command was off, leading to short outings and high pitch counts.
Garcia was dealing with a shoulder injury throughout the year, with that soreness finally leading to a doctor visit in Pittsburgh in September. No major surgery was needed, and he took the offseason to rest and recover. He now feels a lot stronger coming into the 2017 season.
“It feels much better after last year,” Garcia said, through translator Danny Arribas. “Last year I was throwing a little bit uncomfortable with something in my shoulder. Now, I feel a lot better.”
Now that Garcia is feeling healthy, he’s working on a few fixes to his game. One of those I noticed today, with a bit of an adjustment to his delivery. I asked him about the change after he threw two innings of live BP this afternoon.
“I was doing an incorrect movement with my push-off leg,” Garcia said. “We’re working on making that better, and that’s what I’m working on right now.”
The adjustment is aimed at getting better command of his pitches, which was an issue last year. So far the results have been encouraging.
“Ever since I’ve been working on it, I’ve been working on the direction of my foot placement out of the windup,” Garcia said. “Now, I have better command over the pitches since working on it.”
Garcia had some nasty stuff before the shoulder issues, with the ability to sit at an easy 93-96 MPH, touching higher. He didn’t have the same velocity last year, usually sitting 90-94 and touching 95. No word on his velocity at this point in camp, but he does have the usual movement on his pitches, and we’ve been getting some good reviews of his stuff this spring, along with seeing it today.
Last year, Garcia used his slider a bit too often, making the pitch ineffective due to the amount of exposure it had. In the second half he added a changeup that worked for him, and started throwing it more often. This led to his slider being more effective, since he could use the fastball/changeup combo to get ahead in the count, and the slider to put hitters away. Having better command of his pitches will only help this approach.
Garcia told me that he will be moving up to Altoona in 2017. The hope is that his command issues are fixed with the recent adjustment and with the rest to his shoulder. After his breakout season in 2015, he looked like he could have the upside of a starter in the majors, and more than just a back of the rotation guy. He could still have that starter upside if his old command and stuff returns, and he mixes in what he learned last year about how to use his pitches. He’s got the stuff to be a nasty reliever if the starter approach doesn’t work out, but the Pirates are keeping him in the rotation for now, hoping to maximize his upside.