Joey Ricotta |March 31st, 2020
Signed as a free agent this offseason, the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yimi Garcia, enters 2020 as a primary setup man for the Miami Marlins. In this day and age, it’s hard to find a pitcher who hasn’t had Tommy John surgery at some point in their career. Garcia is no exception, he missed most of the 2016 season because of arm issues and wound up getting the procedure done on October 25, 2016, which caused him to miss the entirety of the 2017 season.
Usually, the first season back to pitching is a “get your bearings back” year. That seemed to be the case with Garcia, after having success in 2014 and basically, his first full season in 2015, he struggled in his 2018 return from the injury with a 5.64 ERA in 25 appearances.
The good news is Garcia looked solid last season, potentially returning to form with a 3.61 ERA and 0.866 WHIP in 62.1 innings pitching. Not only was he solid, but it was the most appearances and innings he’s pitched at the big league level. Because of the delayed start to the season and inevitable shortening of the schedule, he’ll most likely, pitch fewer innings this year. But, that might help his cause and allow him to stay fresh throughout.
So, why are we talking about Garcia and asking if he has fantasy relevance? Let’s dive in, talk about the situation he’s in, and take a look at what he brings to the table.
2019 stats: .183 xBA (98th percentile), .257 xwOBA (95th percentile), .313 xwOBAcon (95th percentile), 27.3% HH% (98th percentile), 86.6 mph exit velocity (83rd percentile), .364 xSLG (80th percentile), 26.7% K% (72nd percentile), 5.7% BB%.
Situation and Role
Brandon Kintzler isn’t a big-time strikeout pitcher, he relies a lot on good downward action, pitching to contact and inducing ground balls. Not to say he can’t close games, but you don’t normally look at those types of pitchers as dominant closers. Kintzler is also 35-years-old, compared to Garcia being 29-years-old. Translation: Garcia could have a future as a closer, whereas Kintzler is approaching the end of his career. The Marlins, who aren’t likely to be contending this season, might want to see what they have with Garcia and, see if he can close games moving forward. Take that for what it’s worth because Kintzler should be the closer to begin the season.
Pitch by Pitch
Four-Seam Fastball – (44.1%) 94.2 MPH average
Stats: .160 BA, .154 xBA, .412 SLG (8 HRs), .315 xSLG, 28% Whiff
Garcia’s fastball has an above-average velocity that topped out at 97.3 MPH last year and an ELITE 98th percentile average spin rate. Hitters weren’t mashing his fastball, necessarily. However, when they did hit it, they were putting it over the fence. Garcia has a tendency to let pitches leak over the middle of the plate. Most of the time, hitters still can’t hit it, and despite his fastball catching more of the plate, he gave up more bombs and a higher slugging percentage than expected, by almost 100 points. Proving that his fastball can make the best of hitters whiff, take a look at this heater left in the middle of the zone against one of the best contact hitters in the game, DJ LeMahieu.
Curveball – (30.8%) 83.2 MPH average
Stats: .189 BA, .184 xBA, .396 SLG, .333 xSLG, 20% Whiff
Garcia seems to favor getting ahead in counts with his curveball, he throws it a decent amount on the first pitch of at-bats. Garcia threw the curve in the zone 53.7% of the time and 52.6% of the time on the first pitch of at-bats. Both of those were more than any of his other pitches. On 1-0 counts, he threw it 53.3% compared to only 29.3% of four-seamers in the same count. This could explain why many hitters were laying off the curveball and swinging more at the heater. The curveball made up for 23.2% of the opponent swings, while the fastball induced 53.5%. I know, that’s a lot of numbers and percentages to digest, but the main point is, the hitters were focusing heavily on his fastball and laying off the curve.
Working in reverse order, with the breaking balls coming first, can be beneficial. But, making a slight tweak in attack and throwing the heater at a slightly better rate early in the count, could help force hitters to respect all of his pitches, including the hook, and prevent them from waiting back on the fastball. Although both are good pitches, the fastball is the one that gets taken out of the yard with more regularity. Much like the fastball, the curveball has an elite spin rate at 2801 average revolutions per minute, which was good enough to sit in the 88th percentile last season. Take a look at this curveball to Willson Contreras that was left in the zone and still made him look silly.
Slider – (17.7%) 86.9 MPH average
Stats: .154 BA, .199 xBA, .282 SLG, .319 xSLG, 31.3 WHIFF%
The slide piece was Garcia’s highest 2019 chase miss% (56.3%) of his pitches. The next highest clip in the arsenal of his pitches was the changeup at 38.9%. And although the curveball was thrown more, it was Garcia’s slider that garnered the second-most swings and misses to the fastball (19.7%). Opponents hit only .154 with one homer off the slider in 2019. In addition to being his best pitch in terms of batting average against and home run suppression, Garcia struck out 17 batters with the slider, compared to 11 with the curveball, and, as aforementioned, it was thrown a lot less. Not a crazy amount of break and movement compared to other pitchers’ sliders in the league, but here’s a look at it wiping out Austin Hedges.
Changeup – (5.6%) 87.3 MPH average
Stats: .333 BA, .343 xBA, .917 SLG, .865 xSLG, 32% Whiff
Despite the inflated numbers against his change, it’s surprisingly nasty, and it created a 32% Whiff rate, which was the best swing and miss percentage out of any of his pitches. The inflated numbers could be, in large part, because of how rarely he threw it, Garcia threw the changeup very little (56 times) compared to the other three main pitches in his arsenal. That said, the eye test tells me it’s pretty wicked. Last year, it sat upper 80s with late tailing action. The changeup is a bonus at this point.
Working in short appearances, Garcia doesn’t need to be able to throw a ton of different pitches to be effective. However, if he chooses to utilize it more, there’s potentially more strikeout upside than what the numbers tell us. Despite the good or bad numbers against his changeup, it’s the pitch in his arsenal that moves the most. Per baseball savant, on average, it moves 17 inches towards right-handed batters and drops 34 inches. League average is 13 inches of movement towards righties and 31 inches of drop. Take a look for yourself. Here’s a clip of Francisco Mejia opening up and attempting to turn on a non-existent fastball.
Sinker – (1.8%) 93.5 MPH average
Stats: .500 BA, .571 xBA, 2.000 SLG, 1.970 xSLG, 16.7% Whiff
Garcia doesn’t throw his sinker much and shouldn’t throw it at all because of its 50% HH% against. Unless he improves the mechanics and execution of the pitch, let’s hope he eliminates it altogether. Video not needed.
Outlook and Evaluation
The point of going through the pitch repertoire is merely to display what’s in his bag of tricks. More times than not, he isn’t going to need to get too cute, while pitching in short relief appearances. The fastball and curveball alone set him up to be a solid closer. Reiterating what was mentioned earlier, the heater and curveball have elite level spin rates. It seems like he throws a lot of them in the zone, but gets away with it because of how nasty and deceptive they are, likely fooling batters. Something that can’t always be relied on, but it’s nice to know he has good enough stuff to get away with some mistakes. He had the highest walk rate of his career (5.7%), and that was still 2.6% better than league average. Furthermore, he suppressed hard contact, allowing only a 27.3% HH%.
During spring training, before the abrupt stoppage, Garcia led all qualified pitchers with a 0.14 WHIP in seven innings pitched. He also didn’t allow a hit and struck out eight batters while walking only one. Garcia’s biggest problem has been the long ball, he gives up a lot of fly balls and his HR/9 rate was among the worst out of relief pitchers last year. His FIP and xFIP were also high, sitting at 5.19 and 4.90 respectively. However, according to the new xERA metric, Garcia ranked in the top four percent of the league with a 2.86 xERA. I’ll take that number and run with it, along with all of the other numbers and eye tests.
We’ll have to wait and see if and when Marlins manager Don Mattingly will pull the plug on Kintzler and roll with Garcia. My money is on Garcia to take over the role at some point and I like him as a solid stash or late-round draft target.
Questions and comments?
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images