Whatever positive momentum Avisail Garcia took from spring training into the regular season evaporated into a .156 batting average and .551 OPS entering Wednesday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Angels. Garcia is not starting in Wednesday's lineup.
Garcia, sporting a tweaked batting stance he felt put him in a better position to hit, slammed the ball across Arizona to the tune of a Ruthian .361/.409/.705 slash line in 20 Cactus League games.
But he has just seven hits in 45 plate appearances this season with four walks, 15 strikeouts and two home runs. He’s only making contact on about 67 percent of the swings he takes, well below the major league average contact rate of 77 percent.
Through 13 games, Garcia has only played two in the outfield, having lost his spot in right to Adam Eaton, who was shifted over there from center upon Austin Jackson’s arrival in March. The transition to being a full-time designated hitter isn’t an easy one, manager Robin Ventura said.
“This is any rut that you would normally have during the season, but it becomes a little more magnified because he’s DHing for the first time,” Ventura said.
Garcia doesn’t turn 25 until June, and while this is his fifth season as a major leaguer, it’s only shaping up to be his second full one. He hit .257/.309/.365 in 601 plate appearances last year, and was also rated as a below average defender by DRS (-11) and UZR (-6.2).
When a player struggles as a designated hitter, it can be difficult mentally as at-bats are his only chance to contribute to the team.
“You can still help your team do something on defense, and I think when you do that your mind’s at ease more than if you’re just DHing and it’s not going well, you’re not putting it in play,” Ventura said. “That’s the only thing you’re doing. If you’re not getting on base, you can’t even run the bases well. But when you’re on defense, you can make a play, keep your team in the game, do something that makes you feel good and know you’re helping the team, and I think that makes you feel good when you go to the plate. When it doesn’t happen, that’s the only thing you’ve got going for you.”
Whatever reason is behind Garcia’s struggles, though, the White Sox need him to hit better as they look to build off a promising beginning to 2016.
“You talk about developing, but he also needs to produce, and he knows that,” Ventura said. “I think he’s at a point now where he needs to get some at-bats and produce, and it’s not as much about developing as about just playing.”