Avisail Garcia isn’t producing at the level the White Sox hoped he would, but he’s still found a way to make a positive impact on two games with his play in the field.
Specifically, Garcia has robbed two home runs this summer, both of them in key situations. He took away what would’ve been a ninth inning, game-tying home run off the bat of Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis on July 4, and on Saturday against the New York Yankees he leaped to keep Didi Gregorius’ deep fly ball in the park.
Had Gregorious’ drive landed in the right field bullpen instead of Garcia’s glove, New York would’ve taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the third that would’ve altered how starter John Danks fared against the American League East leaders.
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“He’s a big kid that’s athletic, so he’s able to get back far enough to be able to take those away,” manager Robin Ventura said. “And they’ve been big ones for us. The one in the ninth inning against Baltimore was a big one and then last night, it changes the complexity of that game if that goes over the fence.”
Still, Garcia is rated by FanGraphs’ WAR as the third-worst position player this season (-0.9 WAR, tied with Boston’s Hanley Ramirez and Detroit’s Nick Castellanos). He has the third-worst UZR (-5.3) and second-worst defensive runs saved (-9) among qualified right fielders. At the plate, he’s hitting .264 with a .670 OPS and has a .253/.295/.283 slash line since the start of July.
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Ventura said the 24-year-old Garcia’s issues come with this being his first full season in the major leagues.
“It’s very rare when a guy gets in the league in his first year and doesn’t have a moment or two that he goes through some struggles,” Ventura said. “He has to be able to learn, you have to withstand it and still keep your confidence and grind through it. It’s hard. It’s a hard game and you’re facing the best pitchers in the world every night.”
The White Sox dug a deep hole in the season’s first three months and need all the wins they can get in August and September to gain solid footing in the AL playoff race. For all of Garcia’s deficiencies this season, those home runs he’s robbed may have saved two wins for the White Sox — wins the team, at this point, couldn’t afford to have turned into losses.
“I try to play good defense and something for my team,” Garcia said. “If I’m not hitting, I like to play good defense because that helps the team a lot.”