Pitching prospect Deivi García was one of the big surprises of the Yankees’ 2020 campaign, as he came up at age 21 and posted a 4.1 percent walk rate in 34.1 big league innings en route to a commendable first taste of the majors. This was quite the departure from his years of elevated walk rates in the minor leagues — since 2018, they had stabilized at around 11 percent. While everybody knew the sample size was too small, there was hope among coaches and fans that García had, indeed, turned a corner with his control.
But not so fast. The control gains that Deivi made last year didn’t stick in 2021 ... or at least they haven’t in his the first 19.2 frames of meaningful baseball. This sample is even smaller than the 2020 showing, but so far, it’s clear that García is back to struggling with his strike-throwing ability.
Combining García’s 15.2 Triple-A innings and the four he posted during his April 26th loss in Baltimore, his 2021 walk rate is 17.2 percent. It’s worth noting that 10 of the 12 bases on balls he has issues to batters in Scranton this season came in just two games, so he has been prone to completely losing the strike zone for spells. But the overall Triple-A numbers aren’t pretty, and he wasn’t exactly fooling the Orioles in his one MLB game.
Given the evidence we have at hand, it seems likely that García would benefit from at least a couple more months in Triple-A. Even just waiting to see a bump in innings to increase the sample size would help make better future evaluations. However, it’s clear that the long, grueling MLB season may be an obstacle to this development.
With the way that injuries have been taking over the game, and the Yankees’ urge to keep their pitchers healthy and effective for October, it won’t be at all surprising to see García pitch important innings in the Bronx in the not-so-distant future. That may not necessarily be a good thing.
Coincidentally, right-hander Corey Kluber had to depart yesterday’s start with right shoulder tightness, an injury that has the potential to sideline him for some time. Kluber’s hopeful to avoid that, but if that’s the case, then the Yankees will have no choice but to recall García to make at least a couple of starts. Whether he sticks in the rotation or not will depend on several factors, ranging from Kluber’s diagnosis after undergoing an MRI to how García looks in a potential extended exposure to MLB hitters.
Should the Yankees be worried about García?
Prospect development is definitely not linear. Not every young player spends a season in Class-A, then another in Double-A, one in Triple-A after that, and then makes it to the majors in the next one. That’s not how it works for everybody. Not every young player can pull a Juan Soto or an Andrew Vaughn, skipping multiple levels of minor league baseball and looking the part as major leaguers.
Some players – especially pitchers with control issues – take years to fully develop. It took Luis Medina, for example, the better part of the last five years to lower his walk rate to a tolerable level, and he’s still in Class A-Advanced. Although he might be on the doorstep of a promotion to Double-A Somerset, there’s still room for growth. Plenty of major league pitchers had issues finding the strike zone early in their careers.
Deivi García still needs to prove that he can consistently throw strikes for much, much longer than 34.1 innings. Ideally, that experience would come at Triple-A, since he hasn’t mastered the level yet. He had a 5.40 ERA and 5.77 in 40 frames in 2019, with an 11.2 percent walk rate, and while his early figures are a touch better in 2021 (5.17 ERA, 4.77 FIP), the struggles with strike zone command still linger.
The fact that García is having issues throwing strikes right now doesn’t mean he can’t be a successful major leaguer down the road. He has the tools and the stuff to be an impact pitcher. It just appears that he needs more reps in a low-pressure, yet competitive environment to hone his skills. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Alas, García may be needed in the Bronx right now, regardless of his current status. If he gets the call, hopefully he can live up to the challenge.