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Is Jose Garcia Ready?

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Minor League Baseball: Daytona Tortugas at Port St. Lucie Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This year has been weird. That’s an understatement by a landslide, but I just feel like almost every article has to start out that way. With baseball starting its warm ups, being gutted for four months, and then trying to restart again, I think it is one of the most weird case scenarios out there. It is something I have not seen in my lifetime. I’m not old by traditional standards, just by my own, but what we’re about to watch over 60 games is going to different than anything we know.

I mean, the NBA has to try to scratch together a remainder of a season, and just told some teams to not show up. That is perfectly weird. I do not know what is even going on with the NHL. I don’t watch it. Hockey is weird to me. Doesn’t NASCAR run like three races a week or did at one point? I don’t know, that’s not a sport. The NFL will just bang its head against a wall and games will manifest itself. That last one is normal.

However, you know what else is weird? The case of Jose Garcia, or just about any prospect with a pulse and a chance.

Again, if you haven’t read the article written by C. Trent Rosecrans at the Athletic then you need to really click this link. If you haven’t paid for a subscription there then you should. It’s stupid reasonable, and I like reading C. Trent. Let’s help keep him around. You already give enough free ad revenue to SBN, you freaking squatters.

Jose Garcia is a baseball player that has never played AA ball. In Spring Training, there were discussions about his rapid movement through the farm system, and the possibility of him being a big leaguer by late summer. He also plays a position the Reds sorely need some stability with talent - shortstop. A position the Reds never really fixed in the off season and will start the year with Freddy Galvis. Galvis is a fine stopgap and back up player. He plays the position well and has some good power for a middle infielder. However, his on base skills are poopy, and he has a huge hole in his swing. I believe, without fact, that he swings with his eyes closed, but Freddy Galvis is the starting shortstop on July 24th. Maybe he’ll play well enough to stick, but what if he doesn’t?

Jose Garcia looks like a guy that can maybe, actually hit. In 452 plate appearances for Daytona last year Garcia hit .280/.343/.436 for a .779 OPS. That doesn’t scream great hitter on its face, even though I’d take that from a shortstop every year, but that added up to a 131 wRC+ in Daytona. He was one of the best offensive players in a league that saps power and at the age of 21 to boot. He is without a doubt, one of the Reds top prospects. He can also run a little and his defense is literally scouted at either great or elite. His one scouting downside always had to do with adjustment to American pitching and whether he’d fill out as a hitter.

In the Spring, there were all kinds of little quotes and personal anecdotes from baseball people that Jose Garcia might be the future.

Here’s an article from Mark Sheldon on February 27, 2020 where he talked to the OG Barry Larkin about Garcia and what he sees. I’m going to leave my favorite quote from the article here.

“The impressive thing is his work acumen, his attention to detail and maturity level for a 21-year-old kid,” Larkin said. “Physically, he’s growing into a man. He’s going to continue to get stronger and, hopefully, hone his skill. What everyone is seeing is certainly what we expect from him. He’s a special player.”

That says a lot. Larkin does go about to temper some expectations later in the article, signifying that Garcia still needs work in the minors. Whatever.

Eventually, the Sheldon goes on to quote David Bell.

“He’s really talented. It’s fun to have him in camp. I like to see him play while he’s here, give him that experience,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Whenever that time comes when he says he’s ready, I think this experience, being in Major League camp will be part of that process for him. … You can look at him out on the field and see pretty quickly that he’s a very talented player.”

While that’s nice, I read that as a stock quote from a manager being asked about a prospect who hasn’t played in AA. It’s the old, “Yeah, he’s good. We’ll see what happens”. All the hype that Jose Garcia was getting in the Spring was just simply that. Hype. He was not going to break open with the Reds. He was not going to be called up in midseason. He may have gotten a September cup of coffee and been left off a playoff roster if he was lucky. In fact, up until the pandemic hit, its was never really a full guaranteed the Reds wouldn’t pull something to try and improve the shortstop position in 2020. Short of being a fun story, and an exciting thought, Jose Garcia was not in the plans for 2020. Unless he went to Chattanooga and had a 1.000 OPS, I think that much was pretty clear. He was just your typical, nice, Spring Training story.

However, again, times are weird. Yesterday, David Bell said this.

“Jose Garcia is an exciting young prospect that is coming on fast, and we want to see him as much as we can,” Bell said. “He has never played above A-ball, but because he’s coming on so strong, he’s putting himself in a position where he could contribute as early as this year. So, we need to get him around a major-league atmosphere as much as possible.”

That reads way differently to me than his quote back in February. There is urgency in that statement. It reads to me that the Reds know how important each game will be. It reads to me that if Freddy Galvis starts off in a slump the Reds may plug Garcia in there to see what happens. I think it also hints at some things the Reds are obviously preparing for. Which is players getting hurt/sick, which I don’t want to think/discuss, but obviously the readiness of Jose Garcia also comes in play there.

Another curious part of the read is the timing of how this could all work out. Each game is worth about three times as much as they were before. Every loss is a panic and every win is a sigh of relief. When we talk about a final stretch of the season, we’re talking about the whole freaking thing. The final fifteen games make up 25% of the worth of the season. With no other plans, Jose Garcia is the “break glass in case of emergency”. Even if he’s only a flash in the pan, a flash at the right time is better than nothing. We all remember Jay Bruce’s first two weeks in baseball, and we witnessed the might of Aristides Aquino last year.

If you continue to read C. Trent’s article, you’ll also hear about some prospects that are also turning some heads in Summer camp. Most notably are Jonathan India, Tyler Stephenson, Nick Lodolo, and Tejay Antone. You know all those names if you read Farmers Only, and three of them are former first round picks. So, why aren’t they the headline of the article? Their positions are filled. They aren’t realistic options to fill out the final roster unless someone is hurt/sick. They’re travel/taxi players. I’m discouraged about their development through all of this.

There is no minor league season. There is relatively no in game player development. That last part scares me the most when it comes to our minor league players. They’ll do work outs but that is not the same. They’ll be spending a lot of time waiting, sitting on their hands. Most won’t face much competition, and this will be a lost season.

Jose Garcia is the one young player that seemingly has the talent to fill a hole the Reds have had for years. Teams will be going based on what they see in practice and what they see in first hand talent when it comes to final decisions this time around. They won’t have April, May, and June to wait and see if Garcia has the talent. The season is too short for that. Jose Garcia has talent in spades, but we won’t get to see the refinement of that talent over the months long slough through a minor league season. However, due to the circumstances of this national pandemic and disaster, this could be his time whether he’s ready or not. He won’t have a choice. Let’s hope he’s ready.