SAN FRANCISCO — After Aramis Garcia was called up to the big leagues, his family had to wait around for nearly a week before seeing his debut. With the way Garcia would go on to play the rest of the year, they should have plenty of opportunities to watch him at AT&T Park.
Garcia was the standout of September, backing a strong run at the plate with solid defense behind it and a surprising ability to handle first base. No player upped his stock over the final month more than Garcia, who might have changed the organization’s thinking at a crucial backup spot. We’ll get to that in a second. First, the highs and lows from Garcia’s 2018 season:
What Went Right
Garcia was called up on August 26 when Buster Posey committed to hip surgery, but he didn’t play until August 31. He made the most of that opportunity, crushing a solo homer for his first MLB hit. Garcia joined Eliezer Alfonzo as the only Giants catchers to pick up their first hit and homer on the same swing. From that day on, he led the Giants in homers (four) and tied for the lead in RBI (nine) despite not playing every day.
Per Statcast, Garcia had the highest hard-hit rate (40.6) of any Giant who got at least 50 at-bats. He was third on the team in average launch angle (18.6) and slugged .492 in his 63 at-bats (for comparison’s sake, no full-time catcher in the NL finished above .485).
Defensively, Garcia has a reputation as a good game-caller and solid defender, and that showed in limited time behind the plate. He made 10 appearances at first and surprised the staff with how easily he transitioned and how many difficult plays he made.
What Went Wrong
Garcia had a .500 BABIP, which is about 200 points higher than you would expect, so the .286 batting average was pretty flukey. He struck out in 47 percent of his at-bats and walked just twice in 65 plate appearances. He certainly hit the ball hard a lot and the homers were impressive, but there are red flags hidden in his numbers.
You can't ignore what Garcia did in the majority of his season, either. He had a .233/.287/.395 slash line in 80 Double-A games and went .237/.268/.263 in 10 Triple-A games. The Giants will weigh all that against what he did in September.
Garcia has two minor league options remaining.
Garcia was drafted as a bat-first catcher and had some impressive swings in September, so it’s fair to think that he can be much more productive than the player the Giants saw in the minors this season. At the same time, his peripherals say he’s not the slugger they saw in September. Regardless, he opened eyes.
"This was a good chance to see what he was about and this kid has shown a lot,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He's shown toughness and his ability to handle major league pitching, so that'll be a tough decision -- do we keep his development going or is he ready (to be the) backup?"
That decision will depend on what a new head of baseball operations wants to do with Nick Hundley. If the Giants can bring Hundley back on another one-year deal, they likely will, ticketing Garcia for more development at Triple-A. If they don’t bring Hundley back, Garcia looks ready to handle life as a backup catcher. The Giants believe his glove is ready, and he’s shown enough promise at the plate that they should be comfortable that he can clear the standard for backup catchers.
It’s also possible that the Giants carry Hundley and Garcia on their bench at some point. The rookie showed he can adequately back up first base and provide pop off the bench, and with Posey coming off hip surgery, there’s a chance the Giants will carry three catchers early in the season.