In Which I Talk Myself Into Adolis García

Adolis Garcia
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are a bit of an odd team. Every offseason, someone does a thought experiment to build the best team solely out of free agents; in fact, some months ago I posed a similar question about the Orioles. But even my hypothetical 2023 O’s had three top-10 prospects to throw into the mix. What does a team look like if it’s starting entirely from scratch?

A little awkward, as the Rangers can attest. When they traded Joey Gallo to New York in 2021, the cupboard was basically empty. Since then, they’ve done an admirable job acquiring talent in trades and on the free-agent market, but they haven’t made much progress on the road back to playoff contention. A 94-loss campaign in 2022 got manager Chris Woodward and longtime baseball ops head Jon Daniels fired, and new manager Bruce Bochy surely would not have come out of retirement so he could compete for third place in the AL West.

The Rangers have plenty of star power, particularly after adding Jacob deGrom in free agency, but plenty of questions remain about their ability to fill out a competitive lineup. And Adolis García might be the player upon whom their success hinges.

When I wrote about Jurickson Profar a couple weeks ago, I made a comment about how the Rangers were doing their rebuild backwards. Some teams wait for a homegrown core to develop before supplementing it with free agents; Texas said “to hell with all that” and decided to speedrun the process. And to be honest, it’s hard to see the downside. The only free agents they’ve guaranteed money to past next year are deGrom, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien (who are the class of player you’d want to keep around as long as possible), and Jon Gray, who’s only making $13 million a year in 2024 and ’25. It doesn’t hinder their ability to spend long-term or cost them anything now except an old natural gas billionaire’s pocket change.

With that said, the Rangers as currently constructed have a lot of question marks. Their best chances of making the playoffs involve either: 1. a merger with the Cubs, who have tons of depth but little star power and therefore represent a perfect complement to Texas’ roster, in the style of Jack Spratt and his wife; or 2. at least one of the Astros and Mariners disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle. And that’s unlikely, because as you know the Mariners play their home games farther from the Bermuda Triangle than any other MLB team.

García is such an important player because almost all of Texas’s spending has come on one side of the ball. In the past 15 months, the Rangers have acquired seven starting pitchers, all of whom are currently between the ages of 31 and 34, via trade or free agency. They’ll pay five of those pitchers at least $12 million this year; a sixth, Jake Odorizzi, will have his $12.5 million salary heavily subsidized by the Braves.

This is, I think we can all agree, a good starting rotation: deGrom, Martín Pérez, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Gray, with Odorizzi, Danny Duffy, Dane Dunning, Glenn Otto, Spencer Howard, and Cole Ragans in reserve. You can quibble with the dropoff after deGrom or potential injury issues, but few teams will have more depth than the Rangers this season when it comes to starting pitching.

It’s also a rotation built heavily to compete now. Even the younger guys who’ll start the season in Triple-A are getting into their late 20s. And while Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker looked like surefire aces two years ago, it’s less of a sure thing now that they’ll slot right into the rotation in the near future. The Rangers have built quite an expensive pitching staff with the objective of winning now.

The problem, which will probably come as a shock to those of you who remember the fully roided-up turn-of-the-century Rangers teams, is offense. In order to compete for a playoff spot, a team has to be able to fill out at least half its lineup with above-average hitters. Last season, Texas was the only 90-loss team with a lineup that included at least four players who posted a wRC+ of 100 or better in 300 or more plate appearances. But every team that finished with a winning record had at least five; most had six or more. How far does pitching get you? Well, the Brewers had an incredible pitching staff and a better, deeper offense than the Rangers in 2022 and still missed the playoffs.

So where does that uptick in offense come from in 2023? Let’s assume that Nathaniel Lowe repeats his breakout season and posts a wRC+ around 140 again. Let’s also assume that Seager and Semien are very good-to-great in 2023, rather than slightly disappointing as in 2022. That’s three-quarters of a good infield.

If the Rangers’ offense improves in 2023, it won’t be because of additions from outside the organization. While Texas brought in numerous free agents and big-name non-roster invites on the mound, only five new position players were added this past offseason. Here they are, with their ZiPS-projected batting lines.

2023 ZiPS Projections, New Rangers Position Players
Player Position AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
Travis Jankowski OF .223 .322 .277 76 0.6
Jackson Frazier OF .213 .295 .344 84 -0.7
Yoshi Tsutsugo 1B/OF .215 .300 .375 93 0.2
Sandy Leon C .201 .280 .284 65 0.3
Joe McCarthy OF .220 .300 .369 92 0.1

(Rangers GM Chris Young walks up to a bus shelter on a desert road and sits on the bench next to an old man. The old man is missing a couple teeth, and is covered in a thin layer of dust. He licks his thin, gray lips—it’s clearly been a while since he’s had water. His suitcase is propped up against the end of the bench. The leather is cracked and faded from what must be years in the harsh sun. He turns to Young, the harsh daylight reflecting off his vacant eyes. A tumbleweed blows by.)

OLD MAN: You waiting for the Jackson Frazier breakout season, son? You’re not the first.

Suffice it to say, the necessary offensive improvements for Texas will have to come from within.

Maybe Josh Jung lives up to the hype on his first full major league season. Maybe Jonah Heim takes another step forward with the bat (not that he has to, given what he provides defensively). But any realistic path to the playoffs for the Rangers in 2023 not only involves Seager and Semien hitting, but also García.

That’s been a hard thing to trust in. García has what is usually a lethal combination for hitters: He doesn’t draw walks, he chases tons of pitches outside the zone, and he has a rock-bottom contact rate. In 2022, he was in the 21st percentile for walk rate, ninth percentile for chase rate, and eighth percentile for whiff rate. That shouldn’t be survivable, particularly for someone who isn’t… well, a pitcher, usually, but at least a shortstop or catcher.

In two full big league seasons, García has posted OBPs of .286 and .300, and somehow he’s been a three-win player both years. I went in search of three-win seasons by players with similarly low OBPs and got as far back as 2017 before I saw Logan Morrison on a WAR leaderboard and decided that was far enough. Here’s what I found.

3+ WAR, .300 OBP or Less, Since 2017
Year Player AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Def WAR
2022 Jeremy Peña .253 .289 .426 102 10.0 3.4
2022 Willy Adames .238 .298 .458 109 14.8 4.7
2022 Adolis García .250 .300 .456 112 0.5 3.8
2022 Jose Trevino .248 .283 .369 91 29.0 3.7
2022 Cal Raleigh .211 .284 .489 121 18.0 4.2
2021 Adolis García .243 .286 .454 99 13.7 3.3
2018 Nick Ahmed .234 .290 .411 85 30.6 3.7
2017 Martín Maldonado .221 .276 .351 72 33.8 3.1

So that’s García and a bunch of catchers and shortstops who are not only outlier defenders but also in most cases serious power hitters. Some of the three-win players who just barely squeaked over a .300 OBP include more of the same: Byron Buxton, Daulton Varsho, 2021 Mike Zunino.

García is a good defensive outfielder, but he splits his time about equally between center and right. What does such a player have to do in order to thrive without providing extremely high defensive value? In short, if a hitter is going to strike out 190 times a season and run a single-digit walk rate, he has to get his money’s worth whenever he does make contact. And it seems like García has found the precise amount of bejeezus he has to hit out of the ball in order to remain an above-average hitter.

Last season, García posted a wOBACON of .425 and an xwOBACON of .422; both figures ranked 18th out of 130 qualified hitters. His Barrel%, 12.9, was also 18th among qualified hitters. His HardHit%, 47.4, was 21st, putting him between Freddie Freeman and Juan Soto on the leaderboard. If there were no such thing as balls and strikes and hitters only were graded on what happened after they made contact, García wouldn’t just be an above-average player, he’d be a perennial All-Star.

It’s an interesting path to a 112 wRC+, if nothing else. It also helps that García doesn’t seem to have any specific glaring weaknesses in his own particular style of game; he’s the same all-or-nothing hitter regardless of platoon advantage or (apart from a mild weakness against sliders, whatever a slider is anymore) pitch type.

García’s quality of contact is so good it seems like he can repeat it going forward. He’ll have to, or else the Rangers will have trouble scoring enough runs to win consistently this season.

Michael is a writer at FanGraphs. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Ringer and D1Baseball, and his work has appeared at Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, The Atlantic,, and various ill-remembered Phillies blogs. Follow him on Twitter, if you must, @MichaelBaumann.

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1 year ago

Garcia shouldn’t be expected to improve. If they want to compete for a WS immediately they’ll need to find these “average or better” hitters elsewhere

1 year ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

A Profar reunion?

Seriously, Garcia’s a useful player, but his holes are what they are kind of like Patrick Wisdom. That’s why you need better options (along the lines of Profar) in case the bottom does fall out for Garcia.

1 year ago
Reply to  tz

Yeah I’m with you on this. Enjoy the ride while it lasts but the bottom is going to fall out, and I don’t see improvements coming here. It would be awfully nice if they had a guy in left field they could trust to guard against that.

1 year ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

You don’t put him in the middle of the order but if you have decent OBP guys at 6&7 you bat him 8 so you can maxize whatever contact he makes.

Last edited 1 year ago by fjtorres