The Milwaukee Brewers have added a new bat to their lineup in outfielder Avisail Garcia. Fresh off his second-best season in the Major Leagues, the team is hedging a two-year bet (plus a club/possibly mutual option) that Garcia’s rise is sign of things to come.
In 530 plate appearances in 2019, Garcia his .282/.332/.464 and a career-high 20 homers with the Tampa Bay Rays. That output was good enough for a 112 wRC+ and 1.8 fWAR. He has a great 40.3 hard hit% with a minimal 18.8 soft hit%. To add to the hard contact, Garcia does a decent job of spreading the ball around, raking just 40% of his hit balls to the pull side, 36.5% to center and 21.5% the opposite way.
Garcia’s 2019 was pretty good, but it wasn’t as good as 2017 when he was with the Chicago White Sox. He managed to put up a .330/.380/.506 slash line with a 138 wRC+ and 4.2 WAR in 561 plate appearances. What’s exciting about that, is that Garcia’s batted ball stats were continued to improve in 2019, despite slightly worse results in his stats.
While his above-average hard contact and exit velocity screams “power hitter,” Garcia doesn’t drive a lot over the fence due to his launch angle. At 9.8 degrees, it’s the one power area where Garcia is fairly below league average. That would explain his slightly below average 31.6% fly ball rate, but his still strong 22.3% line drive rate.
A surprise skillset for Garcia is his speed. While a .340 BABIP would normally suggest a lot of luck, Baseball Savant rates his speed well above average. That’s especially shocking considering 2019 was the first year that Garcia stole double digit bases, and even then, he only swiped 10.
The struggle for Garcia comes with his control of the zone. He walked a meager 5.8% of the time in 2019, while striking out 23.6% of the time. That’s more or less in line with his career numbers. His elite bat control and contact only matters when he make contact. With a profile like that, he’s not making contact often enough for that to be the case.
Garcia tries to take advantage of his tremendous bat by swinging a lot. He swung at pitches out of the zone 40% of the time but only made contact on roughly half of those. He swung at about 82% of the balls thrown in the zone and had made contact on just about 80% of those (which is slightly below average). This aggressiveness leads to a very high 17% swinging strike rate, nearly double what’s considered average among MLB hitters.
Defensively, Garcia has been able to hold his own over most of the last four seasons in right field. He has an overall positive DRS during that time frame with a very good UZR. He has spent some time in center field and left field, where his skills are below average, but manageable in short stints. He has a very good arm and was one of only a few players to rank in the top 15% for sprint speeds, exit velocity and arm strength. With the Brewers, the expectation from the front office is that he'll be able to switch primarily to left field while occassionally filling in for Lorenzo Cain in center field when LoCain needs a day off.
If Garcia continues his upward trend in performance, he looks like a typical David Stearns steal. It’s easy to see why the organization wanted to lock him up for the near- and mid-term future.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Savant and FanGraphs