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Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Deivi Garcia

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One of the Yankees top pitching prospects in on the verge of his major league debut.

MLB: New York Yankees-Media Day Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

No prospect in the Yankees system caught the attention of fans last season like Deivi Garcia. The young righty began the season with High-A Tampa and rose quickly, finishing the year just one step away from the major leagues with Triple-A Scranton.

Along the way, Garcia made headlines with his scintillating strikeout rate that was highlighted by a 15-K game on June 18th, one which clinched the first half title and a playoff spot for the Double-A Trenton Thunder. The young righty will not turn 21 until May 19th this season, and very well could make his major league debut before he reaches that milestone birthday.

2019 Season Statistics:

High-A Tampa Tarpons: 17.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 0.93 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 16.81 K/9, 4.08 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9

Double-A Trenton Thunder: 53.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 1.29 WHIP , 14.59 K/9, 4.36 BB/9, 0.34 HR/9

Triple-A Scranton RailRiders: 40.0 IP, 5.40 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 1.48 WHIP, 10.13 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, 1.8 HR/9

2020 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 37 IP, 4.84 ERA, 4.93 FIP, 1.41 WHIP, 9.98 K/9, 4.11 BB/9, 0.4 fWAR.

FanGraphs’ projections for Garcia are not overly favorable. They project him to receive all of his work as a starting pitcher, which is very much on the table as the Yankees have already suffered multiple injuries to their starting rotation this spring.

Working as a starter is not the only option for Garcia, as he finished 2019 working out of the bullpen for Triple-A Scranton. He struggled down the stretch for Scranton, but the ability to miss bats and strike out opponents is a skill that the Yankees value out of the bullpen. Concerns about his initial exposure could also lead to the Yankees using the hybrid option for Garcia as he could be paired with an opener if the Yankees choose to go that route after finding success with the concept last season.

One reason that Garcia may be used out of the bullpen or carefully managed with an opener is his minor league workload to this point. 2019 was Garcia’s first full minor league season. Despite starting 2018 with the full season Class-A Charleston RiverDogs, Garcia was held back from making his debut until early June. This past season, Garcia moved to the bullpen in mid-August and capped out at 111.1 innings on the season. With an eye on both the immediate future of an October playoff run, as well as the long-term future of one of their best pitching prospects, the organization will be very cognizant of Garcia’s workload through the season.

The Yankees could look to utilize Garcia in a similar role to Chad Green from 2017. That season, Green was used less frequently, but when he did come in he generally worked more than one inning, even in high-leverage situations. Green’s ability to pitch effectively once or more through the opposing lineup was an important piece coming out of the bullpen.

Through his 2017-2018 campaigns, Garcia demonstrated tremendous control as he worked all the way from the Gulf Coast League to the Double-A level. While making this rise, Garcia recorded BB/9 rates of 2.9 and below. In 2019 Garcia struggled with his control, even as his K/9 rate skyrocketed. The lack of control caught up with him at the higher levels as more advanced hitter took advantage of the young pitcher’s ability to keep the ball in the strike zone. Several evaluators speculated that Garcia’s decision to add a slider last season may have affected his feel for his other pitches, leading to the higher walk rate.

While he did lose some of his control this past season, Garcia’s slider turned out to be a dynamic pitch. Baseball America just rated it as the best slider in the Yankees system. It is a pitch that plays well off of Garcia’s curveball as they break in different manners across the plate. Some scouts have questioned his ability to stick as a starter based on his 5-foot-9 frame, but his four-pitch mix is a starting-caliber arsenal.

With some of the most dynamic pitches in the Yankees system, Garcia has a clear path to the Yankees’ 26-man roster if his performance rises to the level expected by many. As the injury bug has hit the Yankees early this spring, the team will be looking for the best available option to give them the innings they need. Deivi Garcia has the tools to succeed as either a starter or coming out of the bullpen, and will almost certainly make his major league debut this coming season.