Thoughts on Jaime Garcia

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Jaime Garcia was drafted by the Cardinals in the 22nd round in 2005. He made his pro debut in the Midwest League in 2006 and was quite effective, entering 2007 as one of the better left-handed prospects in the game. But he was erratic last year for Double-A Springfield. He went 5-9, 3.75 with a 97/45 K/BB in 103 innings, with 93 hits allowed. Not bad at all for the Texas League, but not dominant. Of greater concern was inconsistent velocity: he was his usual 89-93 MPH self at times, but also had several starts where he was working in just the mid-to-upper 80s with less life in the ball. His command was also inconsistent, and the pieces of the mystery came together when he went on the DL last July with a sore elbow.

The pain was traced to a strained ligament, but surgery was avoided. He rehabbed, and looks like he's come back healthy this spring. His stuff is back to 2006 standards, upper-80s to lower-90s fastball with a very strong curveball. He's also continued to make progress with his changeup, and right now it looks like he got through the elbow problem without ill effect.

His performance has been solid this year. He began back at Springfield for a tuneup, going 3-2, 2.06 with a 41/16 K/BB in 35 innings. Promoted to Triple-A Memphis, he's held his own in his first look at the PCL, going 4-4, 4.06 wtih a 56/21 K/BB in 64 innings, 64 hits allowed. He has a 1.98 GO/AO ratio in Triple-A and is keeping the ball in the park with just five gophers given up.

He's doing well, but I would be leery about promoting him to the majors right now. His control is still a bit shaky at times, and he's alternated some outstanding outings (June 26th, 10 Ks in 6.2 innings for example) with weaker ones (eight walks in ten innings combined on June 15th and 21st). He is showing a reverse platoon split, with lefty hitters tagging him at .333 but right-handed hitters just .230.

I like Garcia but he needs more consolidation time in Triple-A. If I were the Cardinals, I would consider him a possible September call-up, but would avoid promoting him to the majors in July or August unless it was a huge emergency and no one else was available. He is still refining his command and needs to get further down the road from the elbow trouble. I gave him a Grade B in the book this year, and right now I will keep that rating the same.

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