Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yimi Garcia picked up his first major league save on Friday night against the San Diego Padres. With Kenley Jansen out with a foot injury, more opportunities should come Garcia's way. Relatively unheralded pre-season, Garcia has been outstanding in his major league career thus far. Between 9.2 innings pitched this spring and 10 innings compiled in the Show last year, Garcia has a career 1.37 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB and just nine hits allowed.
So who is this guy?
Garcia was signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He got beat up as a starter in rookie ball, posting a 7.04 ERA with 47 hits allowed in 31 innings in '10, but he moved to the bullpen full-time in 2011 and was much more effective, fanning 71 in 52 innings in the Pioneer League with a 3.10 ERA. He remained effective in 2012 (16 saves, 2.92 ERA, 82/22 K/BB in 52 innings), retained his momentum in Double-A (2.54, 19 saves, 85/14 K/BB in 60 innings), then thrived in the difficult Pacific Coast League last year (3.10, 69/18 in 61 innings).
And as mentioned above, he's been excellent in the majors.
With these strikeout rates you might think Garcia is blazing fast. That's not quite accurate. He's not a soft-tosser but his fastball doesn't burn the radar, topping out at 95 and averaging about 92. That's fine if your secondaries are solid and your command is good enough and both factors are true for Garcia. His breaking ball varies between 78 and 84 MPH; it is technically a slider though at the lower velocities PITCH f/x sometimes thinks it is a curve. He will throw an occasional change-up and has also been known to use a splitterish grip, though the third pitch is well behind the fastball and slider in frequency of use. His arm angle looks like it deceives some hitters and the stuff plays up.
Garcia throws strikes and looked very confident and composed in the PCL last year; obviously he's looked comfortable in the majors thus far. His stuff profile fits that of a typical middle reliever, but Garcia is very far from a mop-up type and he's getting a chance to close some games right now as part of the "cover for Jansen" bullpen committee.
Whatever happens when Jansen gets back, Garcia seems like a good bet for continued major league success, through a long-term job as a closer will depend on other circumstances.