The Nationals’ offense was dealt a significant blow Friday when starting second baseman and everyday No. 3 hitter Starlin Castro broke his wrist attempting to field a groundball during the sixth inning of a suspended game against the Orioles.
Manager Davey Martinez offered no timetable for Castro’s return after the game, which put Washington in the undesirable spot of trying to replace a veteran infielder and middle-of-the-order bat for the foreseeable future. Their decision was announced just before they played their second game of the day against Baltimore: prospect Luis García was getting the call to the major leagues.
García, batting sixth and starting at second base, went 2-5 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored in his debut. The 20-year-old is the youngest player in baseball and still has braces, but Martinez said after the Nationals’ 15-3 win that García will be given the chance to play every day moving forward.
“He’s gonna play second base for us,” Martinez said. “I liked his at-bats. He went out there against some left-handed pitching today and he stood his ground—he was good. We knew that about him. As far as playing second base, he can play second [or] short, he’s got a good glove. So it’s just a kid with a lot of energy, loves to play but he looked really good out there.”
Replacing Castro and his .784 OPS won’t be an easy task for the young infielder. Ranked the 97th overall prospect by MLB Pipeline entering this season, García is coming off a season in which he hit .257 with four home runs and a .617 OPS over 129 games for AA-Harrisburg. It was hardly a banner year at the plate, but the Nationals sent him to the Arizona Fall League to close out the year anyway. García then joined the club for spring training and impressed with a .400 batting average over 25 at-bats.
“Obviously, I was very excited,” García said through Nationals interpreter Octavio Martinez about getting called up. “It was a great moment for me to find out that I was going to get called up to the big leagues. I was actually getting ready to leave for the hotel and honestly, I wasn’t very surprised because I was ready for any moment they needed me, so once I got the phone call that I was called up I was excited, but at the same time I was expecting it at any moment.”
The Nationals finished off last season as the oldest team in the majors but on Friday they became the first club of 2020 to roster three position players all under the age of 23. García, Juan Soto and Carter Kieboom are joined by Victor Robles (23 years old) to form the Nationals’ young core of hitters that they will look to build around for the next five years.
Even though the Nationals would’ve liked to see Castro stay healthy and anchor the middle of their lineup alongside Soto, his absence will give them the chance to see just how far along García is in his development. They were already close to bringing him up after adding him to their road taxi squad ahead of their series with the New York Mets earlier this week. Now, García will be penciled into the starting lineup on an everyday basis.
“I’m very grateful and thank God for the opportunity, and I hope to little by little by making the plays out on the field and just doing my job that I gain more of his confidence and his trust in me,” García said. “I’m just looking forward to playing out there and doing my job to help the team win.”
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