The Yankees’ offense has issues and question marks entering 2022, but the franchise appears to be in a good place in the pitching department. This is not to say that the Yankees couldn’t use another stellar arm in the rotation for next season, but the club was fourth in Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs’ version) with 22.3, and had the sixth-best ERA in MLB, at 3.76. There is already a strong foundation in place when it comes to arms.
A big part of that success can, and should, be attributed to pitching coach Matt Blake. Under his tutelage, the Yankees had several breakthrough performances, with different samples sizes: Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Joely Rodríguez, Stephen Ridings, Néstor Cortés Jr., Jonathan Loáisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Lucas Luetge, and Mike King were positively influenced by Blake and his work.
Others maintained a similar performance than what they showed recently or pitched about as expected, such as Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Domingo Germán, Corey Kluber, and Chad Green. Others, like Aroldis Chapman, took a step back, but his case has other ingredients that makes it unique.
But there was one pitcher whose stock fell considerably when compared to where he was in 2020 and 2019. Deivi García, one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects in the last three seasons, seemingly forgot how to pitch.
Let’s not forget that he, in 2020, had impressed at times, and his 4.98 final ERA in 34.1 innings wasn’t as indicative of his performance as his 4.1 percent walk rate after years of hovering around 10 and 11 percent in the minor leagues.
Predictably, García’s control and command gains in 2020 were perhaps a product of small sample size. But no one expected him to fall flat on his face like he did this year: in the majors, he could only make two starts, losing both, with a 6.48 ERA and 10.5 percent walk rate in 8.1 frames.
Things were somehow far, far worse for him in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. In 90.2 frames, the 22-year-old right-hander had a 6.85 ERA and an ugly 15.6 percent walk rate. He also conceded 2.08 homers per nine innings there, which helps explain the lousy ERA.
It was clear that García had to work on throwing strikes more consistently even during his 2018 and 2019 campaigns, which were both very positive. But seeing him hand 6.75 walks per nine innings in a little over 90 Triple-A innings in 2021 was very disconcerting.
García represents perhaps the biggest challenge yet for Blake and Yankees director of pitching Sam Briend. And the work, or at least a plan, should start soon. Very soon, as in well before spring training.
There is hope that the Yankees’ staff, led by those two men, can analyze García’s mechanics, release point, arm action, and each individual pitch’s movement and velocity to come up with potential solutions that allow the organization to “rescue” the former top pitching prospect.
The Yankees need the depth, as evidenced by their multiple injuries to the rotation this season, so having a better version of García can certainly help them. However, getting him back to where he was in 2019 and 2020 would also be crucial with potential trades in mind: he could be an interesting piece IF he shows he is closer to the pitcher he was a couple of seasons ago.
García doesn’t have ideal size for a pitcher, and his delivery is certainly not what one would consider “conventional”, but he is a good athlete and that should help him repeat it down the road. His stuff has the potential to be nasty, and he still has that plus curveball to work with. Here is a glimpse of what he is capable of:
Deivi Garcia, have a debut— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) August 31, 2020
6⃣ K pic.twitter.com/yi0sJd1CO7
After all, young Deivi may still have a bright future ahead, being just 22-years-old. But it’s clear he needs some coaching and to gain consistency with his mechanics. The Yankees are hoping Blake and company can work some of their magic with him.