A pleasant surprise for the Houston Astros last year was the emergence of starting pitcher Luis Garcia. The right-handed pitcher is the most recent Astros player discovery and development success story, who climbed from Low-A to make his initial debut with the Astros in 2020.
Garcia followed that up with a terrific 2021. In his first full year starting, the Venezuelan finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, while posting an 11-8 record with a 3.48 ERA, 9.7 strikeout per nine rate and a 1.15 WHIP — pretty impressive for an obscure prospect no one saw coming at the age of 24.
Garcia is an interesting pitcher in that he doesn’t have overwhelming velocity or unhittable specialty pitches. His success is predicated on pitch repertoire and deception. Garcia typically throws his 94-mph fastball 42% of the time with a good mix of a cutter (22%), a slider (12%), a change up (12%) and a curveball (9%).
Garcia perhaps doesn’t look imposing on the mound and his pre-pitch motion is very peculiar, but he generates a ton of success. His fastball is in the 90th percentile for spin rates by Baseball Savant and his secondary pitches also get a fair amount of movement and each generate a Whiff rate above 35%.
However, the big question coming into the Astros’ 2022 season is can Luis Garcia improve from being exposed in the playoffs last year?
Garcia went 1-4 during the postseason and truly got exposed against the elite lineups. If you exclude his ALCS Game 6 gem that he threw, Garcia gave up 14 earned runs, 12 hits and 11 walks in 12 innings in those other four games.
Game 6 of the World Series was particularly rough where he gave up that huge Jorge Soler bomb that put the nail in the coffin for the Astros’ championship hopes.
So what should we expect from Garcia in 2022? At age 25, it’s fair to assume he’s going to only improve, but the “sophomore slump” is very real for MLB ballplayers. Here are a few things that Garcia needs to improve upon for a successful 2022 season.