It’s easy to forget Avisail Garica will only turn 24 in June, given the White Sox outfielder is already in his fourth major league season and has played in more World Series games (three) than every one of his teammates besides Melky Cabrera.
His youth means there’s likely more to his game than his impressive start to the season would show. But his coaches aren’t thinking about where he can grow his game, not while he has a .872 OPS through 33 games.
“Experience is going to the biggest thing for him once he levels out, as far as understanding what people are trying to do to him and go from there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “… (We) kind of stay away from the ‘we’re going to take him a step further’ mentality. Just let him play and continue to understand the strike zone and I think he’s going to be great.”
Garcia’s two-run home run in the ninth inning Sunday helped the White Sox secure a fifth consecutive victory, and over the course of that winning streak he has 11 hits in 22 at-bats with two home runs. Both those home runs have been to right-center, and three of his four homers this year have gone out to center or right.
Eventually, the White Sox believe Garcia will develop the kind of pull power that could turn him into a 20-plus home run player. But Ventura & Co. aren’t going to try to force that left field power out of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Venezuela native who could pass for an NFL linebacker.
“As far as being able to put the bat on it, he’s great,” Ventura said. “The power is there. Nobody with his size doesn’t really have it. We saw that in Oakland his last at-bat.”
Hitting coach Todd Steverson said he’s been pleased with Garcia’s pitch recognition and his ability to fight off tough pitches until he gets the one he wants. So far, Garcia’s been turning those opportune pitches into hits.
Garcia credited his time in the Venezuelan Winter League as a key undercurrent to his strong start. He played in 34 games this winter, collecting 125 at-bats that have proven critical for a guy who missed a big chunk of time with a shoulder injury in 2014.
“It helped me a lot because I lost, like, three months last year and playing helped me a lot because I saw more pitches,” Garcia said. “They had really good pitchers over there, so I saw pitches, curveballs, sliders, and I made adjustments.”
But another undercurrent to Garica’s hot start has been a .423 batting average on balls in play, a mark that’s unlikely to be sustainable over a full season. The highest BABIP a qualified major league hitter has had since 2007 was .396 (Austin Jackson in 2010), so eventually Garcia is bound to see fewer hits on the balls he puts in play.
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That doesn’t mean, though, that Garcia can’t continue to grow as a hitter and produce at a high level even if his luck turns a bit. Again, he’s only in his age 24 season and is playing in career game No. 175 Monday night.
There’s still plenty of room to grow, but the White Sox don’t want Garcia thinking about the big picture in the middle of a season.
“He’s got a high ceiling,” Steverson said. “But you don’t want to sit there and put that kind of pressure on him right now. Let him go play...He’s a great part of our lineup right now.”