Avisail Garcia’s Uncomfortable Situation

Look at the rumors for the White Sox. They concern a certain part of the team. Though the club is ostensibly starting Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, and Avisail Garcia in the outfield, they’re supposedly looking for another outfielder now. Given their respective projections, that makes things particularly awkward for Avisail Garcia.

That’s not really the only thing that’s unsettling about Garcia’s situation.

On the way up, Garcia was always supposed to have the physical tools to succeed. Though his power numbers didn’t wow — he had a minor-league isolated slugging percentage of .119, or more than 30 points below major-league average — the body suggested that he would hit for more power later. He wasn’t great at discerning balls and strikes, but he might hit his way out of that problem. His defense wasn’t great, but the speed suggested he had what he needed to be good in the outfield.

Much of this dreaming hasn’t come to fruition in reality.

He’s the 11th-worst defender over the last three years, by UZR. The plate discipline has been bad. It hasn’t gotten better. He’s 24th-worst batter by strikeouts minus walks since he entered the league. Only Chris Johnson and Brandon Barnes have produced a worse ISO while also exhibiting a similar lack of plate discipline, and those guys are out of a regular job. The rest all had way more power than Garcia.

And so, it’s really the power that is at the core of the problem. If he showed the power, the plate discipline wouldn’t be a problem, and the defense would be less important, and he could be a regular, a league-average guy, just with some flaws. The White Sox could focus on the other corner outfielder if they were looking for an upgrade. If he showed the power, we could stop talking about his upside, and his future. He’d at least be a little better than Dayan Viciedo.

The problem, when it comes to Garcia’s power, is that he doesn’t pull the ball enough. Or he doesn’t show enough power. Put another way: the players who spray the ball as much as Garcia, but have shown the same isolated power so far, don’t provide an exciting road map for his future.

Look at Garcia’s comps when it comes to pull percentage (Pull%), isolated power, and batted ball mix (GB/FB). It’s not a group that suggests his future is bright.

Avisail Garcia’s Batted Ball Comps
Name HR Pull% GB/FB ISO K% BB% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ PU% HR/FB
Wilson Ramos 15 35.9% 2.23 .128 20.0% 4.2% 0.229 0.258 0.358 63 1.6% 15.8%
Eric Hosmer 18 36.8% 2.13 .162 16.2% 9.1% 0.297 0.363 0.459 125 2.5% 15.1%
Austin Jackson 9 36.0% 2.08 .118 23.9% 5.5% 0.267 0.311 0.385 94 0.5% 10.1%
Robinson Cano 21 36.3% 1.99 .159 15.9% 6.4% 0.287 0.334 0.446 116 1.1% 15.9%
Francisco Cervelli 7 36.5% 1.94 .106 18.4% 9.0% 0.295 0.370 0.401 119 0.8% 7.3%
Avisail Garcia 13 36.1% 1.83 .108 23.5% 6.0% 0.257 0.309 0.365 83 1.7% 11.7%
Yonder Alonso 5 35.9% 1.77 .099 11.9% 10.4% 0.282 0.361 0.381 111 2.9% 5.8%
Hanley Ramirez 19 37.1% 1.69 .177 16.5% 4.9% 0.249 0.291 0.426 89 3.6% 19.2%
Scooter Gennett 6 37.5% 1.63 .117 17.4% 3.1% 0.264 0.294 0.381 77 4.0% 6.7%
Jason Kipnis 9 35.3% 1.60 .149 16.7% 8.9% 0.303 0.372 0.451 126 1.9% 6.9%
Marcell Ozuna 10 35.3% 1.56 .124 22.3% 6.1% 0.259 0.308 0.383 89 3.1% 9.3%
Melky Cabrera 12 36.9% 1.55 .121 12.9% 5.9% 0.273 0.314 0.394 91 2.7% 7.3%
Average 12 36.3% 1.83 .131 18.0% 6.6% 0.272 0.324 0.403 98.6 2.2% 10.9%

Garcia could turn into Robinson Cano, Eric Hosmer, Hanley Ramirez, or Jason Kipnis — or he could turn into Melky Cabrera and be a continual tease.

Speaking of Jason Kipnis, he’s tantalized with power before, only to prefer a line-drive, all-fields approach most years. He’s basically the best-case scenario for this group, and it makes you wonder if some of these guys wouldn’t be served better by pulling the ball more, for more power.

I asked Kipnis that once. I asked him if he wasn’t giving back power by going oppo so often. He thought that this was only a concern among “people that don’t play baseball, people that don’t win games.” He thought the choice was clear for a player of his ilk: “Either you could hit .280 with 10-12 homers or .330 with 6-8,” he said last summer. “I’d rather be the 6-8 guy. I’ve been ignoring the home run category.”

Of course, among this grouping, Kipnis hits more fly balls than average, and has shown a better isolated slugging percentage than average. Joey Votto once talked about this phenomenon when he said “I hit the ball hard.” Kipnis hits the ball hard, and so his all-fields approach works.

In fact, if you look at that list above, all of the players who have an isolated slugging percentage of league average or better hit the ball hard, especially to the opposite field. Eric Hosmer has the ninth-highest exit velocity to the opposite field in all of baseball. Robinson Cano is 42nd, Kipnis is 62nd.

The White Sock ranks 119th among a sample of 226 who’ve recorded 50 balls in play to the opposite field. It’s just not enough power to make the approach work, especially when paired with poor plate discipline and defense.

With the way that batted ball distance ages, even the fact that Garcia is only 24 doesn’t speak strongly to his upside in this category. He was 165th in home run and fly ball batted ball distance, among 284 qualifiers.

Avisail Garcia is not hitting the ball far, and he’s not hitting the ball hard. He’s hitting the ball on the ground, and he’s past the age where that sort of thing improves noticeably. It’s nice that he sprays the ball, and that he looks like an athletic guy, but almost everything else points to an uncomfortable situation for the young Chicago outfielder.

If the White Sox don’t get an upgrade in the outfield this season, and Garcia doesn’t change his batted ball mix in the upcoming season, we will hear these rumors all over again next offeason, except there won’t be anyone wondering about what Garcia can do for them anymore.

We hoped you liked reading Avisail Garcia’s Uncomfortable Situation by Eno Sarris!

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With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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randomjerkbutsmart
Guest
randomjerkbutsmart

Unrelated, but Kipnis sounds like a dumb as rocks dude that doesn’t consider other viewpoints.

Ghost of Bernanke
Guest
Ghost of Bernanke

Jason Kipnis should be considered the foremost authority on Jason Kipnis.

If he thinks the result of trying to hit more home runs would be an overall decrease on productivity, we should probably give him the benefit of the doubt since all signs regarding his play seem to point towards that conclusion.

randomjerkbutsmart
Guest
randomjerkbutsmart

No. It’s his aversion to other points of view. It’s not limited to him but to athletes in general who, save a few very exceptional cases, are not well-educated to the college, masters, and doctoral level peeps in our society.

He could very well have researched and pondered the positive effects of a change in strategy at bat but judging by what I’ve seen, probably not.

choppak77
Member
choppak77

Kipnis’ response was weirdly overly defensive. Like how a dumb guy would react when he feared he was being criticized. He attacks the interviewer as unqualified because he “doesn’t play baseball” and “doesn’t win games,” even though, as a Cleveland Indian, he doesn’t really win games either. He touts his approach as the way to hit .330 when his career high BA is .303. He suggests the try to hit for power path would lead to only 10-12 home runs, when he in fact hit 17 in 2013. His two best years were very comparable in wRC+ and WOBA 2013 and 2015 but with almost twice as many homers in 2013. To an eminently reasonable question about his thought process regarding the relative merits of sacrificing power for contact, he became defensive and attacked the interviewer. Like a dumb meathead.

cornflake5000
Guest
cornflake5000

He also hits for average and has a ton of doubles, so in this case he probably does have a better idea of what’s best for him.

Mark Davidson
Member

Naw, but if Kipnis were to make assumptions about someone’s intelligence based on one quote that is in no way indicative of that person’s intelligence, I’d consider him to be “dumb as rocks”