There are two ways to evaluate at the news that top Yankees pitching prospect Deivi García has been assigned to Triple-A. It’s either a slight disappointment that he didn't force the issue and build upon his strong 2020 debut, or it’s a luxury that the Yankees can afford to keep him in the minors for a tad longer and let him grow on his own time.
I fall in the latter camp. Although it would have been exciting to see García follow up on his abbreviated rookie campaign, there was no need for the Yankees to rush him ahead of his schedule — especially because he’ll most certainly get his chance to make an impact at some point in the season.
It’s hard to remember that García is still just entering his age-22 season. Although his 2020 debut was promising, it was a mere 34.1 innings (plus one in the postseason). We don’t have a large enough sample size to know what García is at the MLB level yet. On the other hand, the Yankees have a much better idea about what Jordan Montgomery, Corey Kluber, and (to a lesser extent) Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán are. García is the wild card of the bunch, but he’s still sixth on the depth chart, and always was entering spring training.
I don't really like the phrasing that García was “demoted” to Triple-A – this was where he was most likely going to start the 2021 season all along, unless there was an injury or a collapse ahead of him in the rotation. To that point, García had a solid spring training, but it still wasn’t enough to surpass Germán. And that’s completely OK.
García has tantalizing potential, but he still has some strategies to work on in the minors. Over his six-start MLB sample size, this is where García ranked among big leaguers last year in various Statcast metrics:
The pure stuff is there, but García needs more consistency. He induced a lot of hard contact last year, and much of it was hit in the air. Until he finds a way to generate more soft contact or whiffs, García will get lit up over time in the bigs, especially with a home ballpark like Yankee Stadium, where sometimes even lazy fly balls end up in the short-porch seats.
Now that he’s had a taste of the MLB life and knows what he has to work on, García can focus on his craft at the alternate site and dominate Triple-A if he’s still in Scranton in May. The Yankees are still very confident in him – they’ve held him out of trade talks over the years and just named him the winner of the annual James P. Dawson Award, which goes to the team’s most outstanding rookie in spring training. Past winners include Roy White, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly, Al Leiter, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, Hideki Matsui, Brett Gardner, Masahiro Tanaka, and Gleyber Torres – excellent company, to say the least.
MLB teams never get through a season anymore with just five, or even six, starters. Aaron Boone has even alluded to it this spring. There’s a reason that teams like the Dodgers carry so many formidable arms. At some point, the Yankees will need a replacement arm in the rotation, and García looks slated for that first call. In the meantime, the Yankees can keep him on his development timeline, and won’t have to worry about rushing him into the big leagues like many a pitching prospect before him.
It’s also worth considering that García’s minimal innings total from the abbreviated 2020 will almost certainly impact how much leash the Yankees give him this upcoming season. He topped out at 111.1 frames in 2019, so it’s unclear how much further the Yankees might let him climb from that figure. If they have shave innings and García appearances off from one portion of the season, it might end up being better that it’s in April rather than September or October. The Marlins have a similar idea in mind for their own young stud, Sixto Sánchez, who was also optioned to the alternate site.
Just two months ago, fans were (rightfully) worrying that the Yankees didn’t have enough pitching depth. Now, they can feel a little better about storing the team’s best pitching prospects in the minors, because Boone’s club is breaking camp covered at the big league level. Deivi García’s time with the Yankees will come, but it’s OK that his 2021 season will begin in the minors.