When it comes to scouting stat lines, I’m a firm believer in throwing out most stats from A ball and below. If you look back at previous players who came out hot in rookie or A ball and then fizzle out, you’ll find a long list of bad investments.
Here’s a great example: After being drafted 15th by the Brewers, 18-year-old Trent Grisham (originally named Trent Clark) was seen as the most advanced high school bat in the country. In rookie ball that summer, he hit .309/.424/.430, good for an .854 OPS. He walked 15.0% of the time and struck out only 18% of the time. It appeared all the pundits were right about him being an advanced hitter. He looked like a future table-setting star.
Fast forward 4 years and Grisham’s career hasn’t taken the leap that many expected. His highest season OPS since rookie ball is .708. His highest home-run total in a season is 8. He’s still taking an absurd amount of walks but his strikeout rate is now in the mid 20s. Grisham’s story is one of many that start with star stats in the low minors, only to dim the higher they climb in the system. People like to buy cards based off of production, and many times they don’t factor what level that production comes at. Sometimes looking at low-minors production works, as it did with Juan Soto. Sometimes it doesn’t, as you can see with Grisham.
It’s with this in mind I talk about the Nationals next potential wunderkind: Luis Garcia.
The first thing you’ll notice when looking at Garcia is his age. He played A/A+ ball as a 17/18yr old and despite being pushed, he performed well. Garcia is projected by both Fangraphs and MLB pipeline to have a plus hit tool. He reportedly has good hand-eye coordination and uses an all-fields approach, which should help him rack up extra base hits. Along with a plus-hit tool, Garcia also has above average speed and an above average arm. Those tools, coupled with his average fielding ability, should make him a solid bet at shortstop.
While he has a plus-hit tool and solid defensive tools, his power tool leaves something to be desired. His power isn’t projected to get much better. Both Fangraphs and MLB pipeline project Garcia to have below average power at maturity. While his power is a concern, for me his walk rate is a bigger issue. He has hovered around a 5% walk rate for his career. While that’s fine for his age, it will need to increase. If it doesn’t, Garcia will have to rely on high averages to carry his on-base percentage.
While his stats have looked great to this point in his career (he hit .298/.336/.406 last year in A ball), there is nothing in his tools that screams future star. He appears to be a player that will have a solid career, but if you’re expecting him to be the next Juan Soto, you may be disappointed. I view him right now as a .290/.330/.420 hitter with solid defense at short, or above-average defense at second. I will add a caveat: He is young and there is a ton of time for him to add power or change his approach to gain more power.
Garcia base autos are currently in the $60 range. While he is an extremely exciting player due to his age and production to this point, I view his prices as an overpay.
People pay premiums for age and production, even if the tools don’t back up the prices. While Garcia could be a future star, paying 60 bucks for a base auto for a guy with limited power and a non-zero chance of playing second in his career is risky. Especially considering his prices are inflated by low-minors stats that are not very important in the long run.
Despite his age, this current variation of Garcia doesn’t strike me as a can’t-miss prospect. I would advise waiting on investing until he shows signs of improvement in power or on-base percentage departments. You may not get the best deal if he does hit those goals, but you’re not taking a huge risk if he doesn’t.
How would you rate Garcia? A must-have or wait-and-see prospect?
Previously on SlabStox: Is Kristian Robinson the Best Investment Out There?
Next on SlabStox: #StoxTrends: Spring Training Week 3