Nationals

As top prospects join MLB rosters, Nationals' Luis Garcia is one step away

Nationals

MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list is going to see a major shakeup after this season.

Though the lack of a minor-league season has precluded most prospects from testing their development against live opponents, many teams have opted to promote their young pieces to the majors and see how they fare at the highest level.

Luis Robert (No. 3) is the Chicago White Sox’s early front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year. Jo Adell (No. 6) has taken over in right field for the Los Angeles Angels. Nate Pearson (No. 9) has impressed through his first two starts with the Blue Jays. Jesus Luzardo (No. 13), Carter Kieboom (No. 23) and Sean Murphy (No. 35) are all playing regular roles for their respective clubs.

Hoping to follow them is Nationals infielder Luis Garcia, ranked 97th on MLB Pipeline’s list over the winter before being bumped off after the 2020 draft. Garcia was added to the Nationals’ player pool in July and traveled with the team for its road trip this week as a member of the taxi squad.

“I want them to get used to being around us,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of prospects Garcia and Seth Romero in a Zoom press conference Monday. “But also, Garcia can play short, he can play second. He can even play third base if need be if something happens.”

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The Nationals don’t currently have an opening for Garcia, but that could quickly change. An injury to either shortstop Trea Turner or second baseman Starlin Castro would give Garcia an opportunity to play every day. Even though Washington would likely use utility men Asdrubal Cabrera or Josh Harrison to fill those holes right away, neither is a long-term solution at those positions.

 

At just 20 years old, Garcia has plenty of time to develop and the Nationals should feel little pressure to rush him to the majors. But he was already showing signs of being ready even before the pandemic turned baseball’s 2020 season upside down.

Garcia was the youngest player to make the Futures Game in 2018 and started cracking top-100 prospect rankings the following year. He rose to AA-Harrisburg last season and represented the Nationals in the Arizona Fall League to the tune of a .726 OPS. That helped earn him an invitation to big league spring training, where he went 10-25 (.400) with a home run, two walks and four strikeouts.

Washington has never shied away from promoting its top position players once it deems them ready.

Some teams make a practice out of keeping their top prospects in the minors long enough to secure an extra year of control. The Nationals over the last decade have brought up two teenagers (Juan Soto and Bryce Harper), made a 22-year-old their center fielder (Victor Robles), placed another at third (Kieboom) and promoted both Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner within two years of them being drafted.

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It’s certainly helped that the team has been competitive over that span, prioritizing winning in the present and as such handling prospects differently than a club in the midst of a rebuild would. Yet the defending World Series champions are hoping to make a run at repeating this season, so any move they make would be still implemented with the goal of helping the team win now.

Even after thrashing the Mets 16-4 on Monday night, the Nationals rank 26th among MLB teams with at least 10 games played in both runs scored and FanGraphs’ WAR metric. Garcia’s numbers in the minors haven’t necessarily been eye-popping, but he still has the potential to provide a boost for an offense that’s desperately needed it.

He’s not there yet, but there is a path that leads to Garcia playing in Washington this season. For now, all he can do is wait for an opportunity.

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