When the Chicago White Sox acquired Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers on July 30, 2013, he was viewed as a potential cornerstone for the franchise. At the time, GM Rick Hahn labeled Garcia as a young, five-tool player and raved about his potential impact. Had the White Sox not embarked on a full rebuild entering the 2017 season, Garcia would likely be elsewhere. Instead, his hot first two months of the season has given the team some reason for optimism. A close look at the numbers indicate that Garcia could become the White Sox version of Kyle Schwarber.
The Resurgence of Avisail Garcia
Red Flags from the Start
In retrospect, there were some red flags in that 2013 deal that may have indicated Garcia was not the sure-fire prospect Chicago thought they had acquired. At the time, he was a career .269 hitter (35-130) with three home runs and 13 RBI over 53 major league games with Detroit from 2012-13. It is common knowledge that teams overpay at the trade deadline, but why were the Tigers willing to trade him to a division rival where he could end up hurting them 19 times a year for the next decade or so? Had they seen enough in those 53 games to know the former number two prospect in the organization was not going to haunt them for years to come?
Further evidence of the lack of conviction from the Detroit side is that the White Sox only gave up aging pitcher Jake Peavy in return. He was pitching well at the time, but at age-32 he no longer demonstrated the Cy Young form of his early days with the San Diego Padres. Couple that with the fact he was two years removed from a rare injury that had never happened to a major league pitcher. Peavy was not the type of player you would typically flip for a prime prospect, even in a pennant run.
Production Not in Line with Expectations
After an injury limited Garcia to 46 games in 2014, he disappointed in the next two full campaigns causing most observers to conclude that he would not spend the 2017 season on the South Side of Chicago. With a complete tear off in the works and a shortage of outfielder/DH types, White Sox management decided to take one long last look at the Venezuelan.
Now in his age-26 season, he is enjoying an early season renaissance with a lofty slash line of .333/.379/.570 in 177 plate appearances. This is well above his 162-game average of .265/.317/.399. Most impressive is the increase in his power numbers. Garcia hit just 25 home runs over the last two seasons, not even close to an acceptable number for a corner outfielder with average defensive skills.
The White Sox Version of Kyle Schwarber
Contrast Garcia’s numbers with the other defensively challenged outfielder in Chicago – Schwarber. In only a fraction of the plate appearances, the talented youngster has hit 22 home runs. It took 1,000 plate appearances for Garcia to put up similar numbers. Rick Hahn probably anticipated Schwarber-like production when he acquired Garcia.
The pair share more than just similar weight. It is interesting that they are extraordinarily similar in terms of exit velocity over the course of their careers. If both players are hitting the ball just as hard, why has Schwarber hit home runs at a considerably accelerated pace? The answer possibly lies in launch angle. Schwarber averages a trajectory of over 20 degrees while Garcia’s is closer to 15. A good angle for knocking the ball out of the park is 32 degrees. At this point, the White Sox must determine if there is a hitting coach who can help Garcia re-tool his swing. The hitter development challenged White Sox should be on an exhaustive search for one. It would make Hahn’s job a whole lot easier and White Sox fans a whole lot happier.