The San Francisco Giants haven’t been short on star power behind the plate. Buster Posey has become the face of baseball’s current dynasty, and the Giants top prospect Andrew Susac should be off the DL to resume backup duties likely within the next week.
They have their next catching prospect in line, doing work at Low-A Augusta. Aramis Garcia is putting together a solid season to erase some of the doubts that arose in his poor 2014 half season debut, but he is still very much a work in progress.
I was on hand at the Rome Braves/ Augusta GreenJackets game this past weekend and was able to see some of the best and worst that Garcia has to offer. The Giants 2014 second round draft pick was a beast at Florida International, coming off a senior season in which he posted a .368/.442/.626 slash line. He blasted eight home runs with 37 RBI, while also posting an impressive 25:23 walk to strikeout ratio over 163 at bats and became known as a big bat that could use all fields.
The 6 foot 2, 220 pound catcher’s collegiate stats did not translate at all in his 2014 professional debut. He slashed a miserable .225/.301/.343 with two home runs, while striking out 25 times and walking just 10 in his first 103 career at bats. Still, based on his bat and potential, John Sickels gave him a C+ grade and ranked him the Giants 16th best prospect heading into 2015.
Garcia has once again found his stroke with Augusta, although he has become much more of pull hitter these days, especially in his power numbers. Garcia approaches the plate with a little bend in his knees, and his bat is bouncing over his shoulder as he awaits the pitch. He has a short, quick swing that when he gets into a pitch, you know it.
Garcia displayed his pull power Friday night, as he ripped a double to the left gap as well as launched a towering fly ball deep enough to left field to bring home Augusta’s second run on a sacrifice fly. Batting .269/.348/.462 on the season with 14 home runs and 60 RBI across 305 at bats, Garcia has moved on from last year’s performance and has shown he is the bat the Giants expected. It does look like, however, that his days of a balanced walk and strikeout ratio (73 strikeouts to 34 walks in 2015) are behind him.
The biggest question mark in regards to Garcia is his defense. Friday night’s hurler Mark Reyes had an effectively wild performance. He threw 107 pitches — only 64 of which would land in the strike zone — striking out five but also walking five, somehow getting through 7 innings with allowing just one unearned run. This wasn’t easy on Garcia.
Two balls got away from Garcia. That gives him 12 passed balls on the season, and that is quite a bit over 69 games. His blocking and receiving skills certainly need some work, perhaps even a changed technique to make up for his lack of foot speed.
The 22-year old, however, has a cannon of an arm. I saw him take a pitch that wasn’t thrown well, and whip it down to second base. He unfortunately one hopped the shortstop who misplayed it and saw the ball careen into short centerfield. Had Travious Relaford fielded it cleanly, Jordan Edgerton was out by a wide margin.
That’s when those around me started telling me about Garcia’s performance on Thursday night. Garcia nailed all three of Rome’s attempted base thieves, and did so by a wide margin. They were gushing on how his last throw out came from his knees and he simply rifled the ball down to second base with ease. Garcia has thrown out 38 of 101 on the base paths this season, so at 38-percent, he is a menacing force behind the plate.
Garcia has a long way to go, but has taken big steps this season in progressing towards the upper levels of the minors. Should he find his groove behind the plate and develop sound technique in receiving a game, Garcia could be the next in line of exciting Giants catching prospects. A transition to first base or a career in the AL as a permanent DH fixture isn’t entirely out of the question either.