Acquired: Draft, 2010 -- 7th Round, #229 overall
Player Profile & Career Summary
Greg Garcia's skill set is what you would describe as prototypical for a player in the Cardinal organization. Mozeliak and company seem to covet hitters with a refined approach, high BB%, and have the versatility to play multiple places on the diamond defensively.
Drafted out of the University of Hawaii, where he was the teammate of fellow Cardinal middle infielder Kolten Wong, Garcia's done nothing but produce in the minor leagues, putting up a .364 wOBA in 1600 PA's across 4 different levels. His bat is remarkably consistent: above average walk rate (11%), below average strikeout rate (~16%), and beating up on right handed pitching (.296/.409/.435 from A - AAA)
Hitting very few fly balls and limiting strikeouts is a good way to avoid really easy outs, something Garcia does an excellent job of. While he sports and average line drive rate in the minors (16%), he hits the ball hard on the ground and can poke it through the holes in the infield with some authority. For a guy with below average power, he's going to have to keep that up as well as continue to walk a lot in order to be a valuable player offensively.
That said, Garcia makes good enough contact that he should be able to find a spot on an MLB bench or starting for a team weak on middle infielders at some point in his career:
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You can see from the second plate appearance above what makes Garcia such a tough out. He takes a few pitches that look to be pretty close (the catcher's mitt isn't moving much, so the pitcher must by hitting his location pretty well), is able to hold off on a breaking ball, and then just pastes a ball in the middle of the zone.
Notice a couple of things:
- Garcia is clear in the back of the box, allowing him to see the ball for as long as possible before he has to start his swing. It's a trait that many players with good plate discipline share.
- He lets the ball travel deep into the strike zone before making contact. He's got good hands, good bat control with a short swing that keeps the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time. This allows him to wait until the ball is right on top of him to make contact with it, which not only improves contact, but also helps with pitch recognition.
It's no secret why he's such a consistent hitter when you break down video of him at the plate. It's just too bad he use his lower half to drive the ball into the gaps on a more consistent basis. If he was able to do so, you're basically looking at Matt Carpenter.
Prior to the Jhonny Peralta signing, I really thought that Garcia deserved a shot to win the everyday SS job. I was openly pleading for him to get a shot at it last August when Pete Kozma was floating around the Mendoza line. He's not as good as either of those guys defensively, but with good feet, soft hands, and decent, but not great, range Garcia deserved a shot to oust Kozma due to his offense alone.
His arm isn't as good as Kozma's (or former middle infield outcast Ryan Jackson's) but he's able to get the job done in a David Eckstein-ish way, with just enough juice to make most of the plays he needs to make but few spectacular plays that you write home about.
He's a much better defender at 2B, where a strong arm isn't as important, but that fact that he can handle SS is a huge bonus that will help him get onto an active roster soon.
I'd expect him to continue to play solid middle infield defense (I expect that he's going to split time with Kozma at SS, since Pete will likely be playing alongside in AAA) while hitting near the top of a Memphis lineup that's going to be loaded with good hitters this season.
I don't expect much of a bump in his slugging, as he's 24 and pretty much is what he is at this point. If he can continue to make good contact and walk at a 11% clip, though, he's going to be awfully hard to ignore mid-season if Daniel Descalso is hitting like he did a year ago.
Garcia isn't a top prospect, but he'd certainly have some value to a club that deems plate discipline and BB% as important as the Cardinals do. Not enough to bring back anything much on his own, but a solid B-/C+ prospect who's ready for big league playing time and could definitely be a 300-400 PA utility infielder and pinch hitter.
Putting up his usual .360+ wOBA at Memphis for the first three months, waiting on Daniel Descalso to stink bad enough to get a shot at a utility role in St. Louis. Even if that happens I'd still expect Pete Kozma to get the call first, unless Garcia follows in Matt Carpenter's footsteps and has a big breakout season at age 24/25.