Two years ago today, the Houston Astros’ Luis Garcia was likely feeling pretty good about the direction of his career. After all, that June he had been promoted to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers of the Advanced A Carolina League after posting a 4-0 record and 2.93 ERA at Class A Quad Cities.
It was a long way from the big leagues, but it was also a long way from the Dominican Summer League where Garcia had started his professional baseball journey as a 20-year-old in 2017. Funny how baseball turns out sometimes.
Some guys toil for years in the minors and never make it to the Show for one reason or another, but a mere 15 months after making his Woodpecker debut Garcia was called up to the Astros to replace Chase De Jong, without spending time at any additional minor league levels.
That long way to the big leagues turned out to be a hop, skip and a jump for Garcia. Last year was a long strange trip for all of us, but perhaps no one more than Garcia who found himself in the major leagues after spending most of 2020 at the alternate training site.
Luis Garcia held his own in the bigs in five appearances and even saw two innings of postseason action in his ’20 season.
After alternating starts and bullpen appearances in April, Garcia is now a full fledged member of the Astros rotation and bonafide Rookie of The Year candidate with a 9-6 record and 3.30 ERA, x ERA of 3.66, FIP of 3.43 and xFIP of 3.71.
Not bad for a $20,000 signing.
Not all the news is good though. Garcia’s fastball velo is down just a tick (94.1 to 93.4) and it is getting blasted. Opponents are batting .302 (xBA .290) and slugging .513 (xSLG .512) with 9 home runs off the pitch that Garcia throws 46.3% of the time.
The good news is the underlying metrics on Garcia’s four other pitches – cutter, slider, changeup and curveball – are all good to very good with outstanding Whiff% and are tailored in large part to the handedness of the batter more than any other Astro pitcher.
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One other concern is the 111.2 innings Garcia has thrown this season are the most of his professional career and he’s still in line for eight or so more starts as it stands today. If he averages his current 5.1 innings per start that would bring the season total to around 150-155 innings, not counting any postseason innings, which would be significantly past his previous career high of 108.2.
The Astros will have to manage his innings moving forward, even if Garcia averages only five per start. Garcia has been one of the more consistent starters and with the race tightening in the AL West it would be a blow if Garcia was unable to take his scheduled turns.
While Garcia made a huge jump, Francis Martes, who was once the top prospect, was released. The two right-handers followed different paths to the show, while Garcia ended up being what Martes was anticipated to be.
After Andrew Benintendi’s defense haunted the Astros once again on Wednesday, the ball club lost the series with one to go on Thursday at 1:10 p.m. Luis Garcia will hit the rubber against left-hander Mike Minor.