White Sox

Early evidence suggests Avisail Garcia seeing pitches better

Early evidence suggests Avisail Garcia seeing pitches better

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One of the main goals of the White Sox work with Avisail Garcia is improving the outfielder’s pitch recognition.

While the offensive numbers have been slow to come so far, Garcia has made progress in swinging at better pitches. He still has ground to gain, but Garcia has swung at 7 percent fewer pitches outside of the strike zone this season, according to fangraphs.com. While Garcia is only hitting .207/.281/.448 with two home runs and four RBIs in his first 32 plate appearances, the White Sox believe his improved selectivity will ultimately benefit him at the plate.  

“If he continues that way you would expect the production to come,” manager Robin Ventura said. “This is a kid that’s still young and learning.

“His recognition is better. Where he’s at in his legs also makes it better. The adjustments he made in spring training is part of the reason. He had more time to see it as well. It’s an adjustment that has paid off for him.”

Garcia has plenty of room for improvement.

Out of 141 qualified hitters in 2015, Garcia ranked 138th in PITCHf/x Plate Discipline as he chased 44.8 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. Garcia has reduced that figure to 37.9 percent this season, which currently ranks 181st out of 209.

Part of the reduction comes from Garcia standing taller at the plate, which allows him to see the ball better. Hitting coach Todd Steverson can see a difference, even if it's subtle.

Garcia has extended more at-bats where he has fallen behind in the count. Perhaps his best was Thursday when Garcia fell behind Ervin Santana 1-2 and made the pitcher throw nine pitches. While the at-bat resulted in a strikeout, Garcia had seen everything Santana would attack him with, and he later homered and doubled, big keys in a 3-1 victory.

“Some very good at-bats,” Steverson said. “Been down 1-2 and not chased a few pitches that maybe he did in the past. My thing in kind of evaluating his approach and thought process is really that. Everybody got on him for all the chase pitches, all the early swings and all of the out-of-the-zone stuff.

“The scrutiny was his recognition and his ability to put strikes in play consistently, and I think he’s done that pretty well up to this point. He’s chased a few pitches here and there, and everybody has on this team. But he was documented on it. I think he’s doing a hell of a job making the adjustment.”

Garcia said his goal is mostly to stay focused and fight in every at-bat, not give any away. He and Steverson have worked to stay away from outside pitches, too.  

“You’ve got to get better,” Garcia said. “Every year. Work to get better. That’s what we work on.

“You try to lay that pitch off and leave the outside corner alone and try to swing to something close to you.”

Pretty simple stuff — but if Garcia can stay with it, there’s no reason he can’t tap into his powerful frame. Now that the results count, the trick is getting Garcia to trust an approach he has worked on since January. While the results haven’t been overwhelming so far, Garcia has a 107 wRC+ (Weights Runs Created Plus) — above league average — in 32 plate appearances entering Friday.

“Everybody wants the result because we have to win ballgames,” Steverson said. “But the process of it becomes a result. And if you get more result-oriented than you are process-oriented than you are more subject to change and not having anything definitive going forward. He’s stayed pretty true to what we’ve been doing.”

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

In stellar return from injured list, only Yoan Moncada's pride hurt in embarrassing tumble

On the day he returned from a weeks-long stay on the injured list with a hamstring strain, the sight of Yoan Moncada face-planting coming out of the batter's box was enough to make an entire fan base hold its breath.

Fans weren't alone, either. Asked if his heart skipped a beat when Moncada hit the ground in the seventh-inning, manager Rick Renteria went a step further.

"Two beats," he laughed.

Moncada was fine, it turned out, hurting nothing but his pride on that embarrassing tumble. The longest lasting effect will be the continued ribbing from his teammates. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez wouldn't let him hear the end of it before, during or after the third baseman's postgame meeting with the media.

"They've been all over me about that," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "They say I have weak legs and I need to more work in the gym.

"Everything's good. I have a scratch on my knee, but it's OK."

Other than that on-field folly, Moncada was stellar in his first game back from the IL. He blasted a homer into The Goose Island in his second trip to the plate, a two-run shot that kind of busted things open in what was a dominant 6-1 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers. He added a double in his third at-bat.

Moncada's 2019 slash line is up to .303/.359/.545 after picking up those two extra-base knocks Thursday night, continuing a breakout season that's seen him go from 217 strikeouts in 2018 to the White Sox best hitter a year later.

The 2019 season is about the development of the young, core guys much more than it is about the win-loss record at the end of the year. Moncada is one of those young, core guys, and his big season has been one of the things that has fans and onlookers thinking about 2020 as the year that could see the White Sox move from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Moncada and the rest of these young White Sox have a handful of weeks remaining in the 2019 to create some momentum for 2020. While offseason additions, the return of a healthy Michael Kopech and the eventual arrivals of top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal will have plenty to do with changing the landscape over the coming months, Moncada and Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez and James McCann and Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease can move the ball closer to the goal, to borrow a sports metaphor from a different sport, with their efforts over the next month and change.

For Moncada, the easiest way to do that is to simply stay on the field.

"I think our goal right now is just to stay healthy and play as free as we can," he said before Thursday's game. "Just try to do the things we know we can do and just take advantage of being healthy and being on the field.

"I think we're going to have a strong finish to the season and hopefully we're going to carry that to next season."

Fans know that importance, too, still waiting for the young trio of Moncada, Anderson and Jimenez to all play together in a full game for the first time since late June. That was supposed to happen Thursday, before Jimenez was scratched from the lineup with some mild hip soreness that neither general manager Rick Hahn nor Renteria seemed too concerned about.

But that heightened alertness for the health of these young, core players caused that brief second of panic when Moncada hit the dirt Thursday night.

Thankfully for the White Sox, Dr. Renteria got to the bottom of things rather quickly.

"It looked awkward, but you could tell he stumbled out of the box," Renteria said. "He was staying down there for a little bit. That’s when I started getting concerned.

"But when I go out there, he gets up right away. I said, 'You are little embarrassed right now, aren’t you?' He said, ‘No, it’s my knee.’

"I said, ‘You are embarrassed.' And he started smiling. That’s all it was. He was fine."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Behind the scenes with Lucas Giolito

Fresh off his complete game shutout against the Twins, Lucas Giolito goes in-depth with Chuck Garfien about his impressive victory and all that went on behind the scenes.

-What it was like striking out White Sox killer Nelson Cruz to end the game (7:30)

-How he beat a Twins team that's trying to hit a home run almost every time they come to the plate (10:00)

-What it will mean to get 200 strikeouts this season (11:10)

-What's different about the baseball (14:40)

-How he's helped Evan Marshall get in touch with actor Jason Segel (16:10)

-Making it a priority to beat the Twins to win a series against them (17:40)

-What he's doing mentally before each game that's different this year (18:30) and more.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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