In the Moneyball movie, a Mets’ scout, attempting to reassure the Beane family that Billy can play professional baseball, says:
Most of the youngsters in the league we have an interest in have one or two tools and we're hoping to develop an extra one. Your son has five, I mean we're looking at a guy that's a potential superstar for us in New York and the time is right now to get him started.
Avisail Garcia has five tools that could be average or better. I often accuse fans of getting too excited about these types of toolsets, as not all tools are created equally, but I’m excited about Garcia because of his five-tool potential. Also, I don’t like it when hypocrites write about baseball.
We’re looking at a player with plus raw power and a swing and bat speed combination that could someday equal an average or better hit tool. He’s 6-foot-4 and has some meat on his bones, but he remains an average-to-slightly-above runner, and he utilizes that speed both on the base paths and in the outfield. Multiple sources call his arm a 60 tool, but 70-grades were also put on the table. But Garcia is sushi raw. He’s made strides to develop his tools, but he’s still a long way from maximizing his potential.
Garcia has appeared in two of Kevin Goldstein’s write-ups on the Tigers’ system. Entering 2011, the Venezuelan outfielder was ranked #15 in the system, dubbed “a big, toolsy outfielder, Garcia has plenty of potential, but it isn't so much in the 'now' category.” Entering 2012, he crept into Detroit’s Top 11, which meant a meatier write-up. Kevin wrote about his fantastic tools and his lousy approach, and offered a projected ETA of 2015. Earlier this week, R.J. Anderson noted that Garcia was “a promising young player, albeit one whose original timeline called for another full season of development time.”
The 21-year-old began the season in the Florida State League. Detroit has stressed the importance of Garcia refining his approach, and he made huge strides in 2012. After striking out 132 times in 515 PAs in 2011, Garcia struck out only 95 times in 513 minor league PAs in 2012. Although he’s got a long way to go, he’s made encouraging strides in recent months. One scout who saw Garcia at multiple times this season noted an ugly May, in which he was swinging at just about everything. Garcia made an okay amount of contact, but he failed to drive the ball and utilize his plus raw power. When the same scout saw Garcia with Double-A Erie, Garcia was still swinging away, but made the right kind of contact more often, connecting on more secondary offerings and getting the ball out of the infield.
It’s very rare to see prospects make the climb from A-ball to the major leagues in one season. It isn’t unheard of, but usually we only see it happen in special circumstances, with players on the 40-man roster getting the call to replace an injured player for a few days or coming up for a cup of coffee in September. Garcia, though, joined the Tigers just before September, and he’s played a very solid role, giving Jim Leyland a solid right-handed option as the Tigers inch closer to a World Series crown.
Physically, the hit tool should play. The swing can get long at times and his front side has looked a bit weak in the past, but later this season Garcia was able to shorten things up and make more consistent contact. Garcia sticks his back side out pretty noticeably against right-handed pitching, which did cost him some power, but he has shown some blastability* against right-handers. There’s still work to be done, but there are signs of promise.
*Extensive research (Google) tells me that “the term blastability is used to indicate the susceptibility of a rock mass to blasting and is closely related with the powder factor.” I’m using it incorrectly, but let’s just laugh at my malappropriate nature. Hats off to anyone who’s followed this chain of incoherence.
Defensively, Garcia could be an asset sooner rather than later. His body’s development will affect his speed, and he’ll probably be a 40 runner down the line, but in his youth he could be an all-around monster.
The Tigers accept that he probably isn’t ready to win an everyday job right now, but they’re optimistic about Garcia’s future. 2013 remains a mystery, but the team expects to play him permanently every day at some point in the near future. They won’t use him in a platoon role, because they’re confident that experience and approach refinement are the only things between him and an All-Star Game.