The first couple weeks of Spring Training are prime “Best Shape of His Life” season, since there’s little else to talk about.
Usually, those stories are somewhat eye-rollers — these are professional athletes, after all, so they’re either almost always in incredible shape already or were in other-worldly shape in their early 20s.
For Brewers outfield Avisail Garcia, though? That might actually be true.
One of the biggest stories out of the last few days when Garcia reported to his second camp with the Brewers has been the fact that the formerly big-bodied outfielder has lost nearly 40 (FORTY!!) pounds this offseason.
"My body feels way better, I've got more energy and I'm feeling good, man."— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) February 26, 2021
Avisail Garcia lost some weight during the offseason and is feeling better than ever.#ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/4pOSiw7EQu
He says he did it by working with a dietitian this past winter, cutting out salt and sugar from his diet.
I don't know why but "during the week" made me lol. All bets are off on the weekends. https://t.co/hUP5g7ejQt— Jaymes (@JaymesL) February 23, 2021
We all need cheat days. Some of us take more than others, and Avi might be the only person in the country to lose weight over the last 11 months or so.
Usually when we get these “Best Shape of His Life” stories, the change isn’t all that noticeable for most of us. But for Garcia, the change can really be seen, as he looks noticeably trimmer from the photos we’ve seen this spring.
Normally we’d worry about what losing that kind of weight in just a few months would do to a player’s power, but it’s not like Garcia had much of it last season, anyway. He hit just 2 home runs in 207 plate appearances in his first (shortened) season last year, with a paltry .326 slugging percentage.
The underlying numbers weren’t great, either, as Garcia was nearly in the bottom quarter of the league in exit velocity and was just in the 39th percentile in hard-hit percentage, according to MLB Statcast data. A lot of that has to do with the type of hitter Garcia has always been — hitting line drives at best, but also hitting more balls on the ground than most players in this era.
There’s been some promising early returns in that area so far during camp, but again, hitting BP in gym shorts is a bit different than facing Jack Flaherty with two outs and a runner in scoring position.
The good part about Garcia slimming down, though, is it may be helping his speed — and his effectiveness in the outfield. Already a very good corner outfielder by the metrics (we’ll throw out last year due to the small sample and the fact he had to cover centerfield once Lorenzo Cain was no longer in the lineup), Statcast had Garcia’s sprint speed in the 79th percentile last year — even with him listed at 250 pounds.
That’s restoring some hope that with Cain back in the fold — and likewise feeling recharged — the Brewers could have one of the better defensive outfields in the National League. We’ll just have to wait and see if losing the equivalent of a small child in weight allows Garcia to become a different — and more versatile — offensive player.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Statcast