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Should Yankees prospect Anthony Garcia stop switch hitting?

Anthony Garcia produced a 1.232 OPS as a left-handed hitter in 2021 and could be a fast-moving Yankees prospect in years to come.

MiLB: JUL 09 Florida Complex League - Yankees v Tigers Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When it comes to discussing who has the best raw power in the Yankees system, Anthony Garica’s name frequently comes up. Widely considered to now be taller and thicker than his officially listed 6-foot-5, 204 pound measurements that were taken prior to the 2018 season, Garcia is a rare prospect in that he has near maximum grade power from both sides of the plate. One of the problems slowing Garica’s climb through the system though is his dramatic splits from the different batter’s boxes. With the recent example of Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins fresh in the baseball world’s mind, it is fair to wonder if Garcia should scrap switch hitting and focus on honing his swing from just the left side where he has produced tremendous production.

Signed as part of the Yankees’ 2017 International Free Agent class, Garcia was a known prospect due to his power, but also not considered as part of the very top tier from that class due to his swing and miss issues at times. After a brief start in the Dominican Summer League, Garcia jumped to the Gulf Coast League and promptly led the league in home runs while being nearly three years younger than the average hitter in the 2018 GCL. A quick look at the strikeout column explained why the prodigious slugger was not climbing up the prospect rankings as he struck out 41 percent of the time on the season.

While receiving more at-bats from the left-side, Garica was also more productive with a higher OPS and a lower strikeout rate as against righty pitching. Garica’s follow up season was cut short when a leg injury shut him down just six games into the season for Rookie-Advanced Pulaski.

Entering the 2021 season, scouts did not know what to expect from a player who had only six games of on-field experience in the last two years. In 39 games between the Florida Complex League and Low-A Tampa, Garcia hit .306/.444/.678. He also showed progress by striking out just below 33 percent of the time while doing serious damage with his bat.

What continues to stand out are Garcia’s platoon splits. In 113 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, Garcia hit .348/.460/.772 with 12 of his 14 home runs on the season. While getting far fewer plate appearances as a right-handed hitter he hit just .179/.410/.393, with his two other home runs being his only extra base hits from that side of the plate. He also continued to strike out at a much higher rate, around 38 percent of the time as a right-handed hitter.

Common baseball wisdom says that a player who has reached the professional level should not abandon switch hitting, since it is a rare skill to possess. The recent success of Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins might be challenging that theory though. After producing just a .440 OPS as a right-handed hitter earlier in his career, Mullins scrapped switch hitting and revived his career. By focusing all his efforts into his left-handed swing, he was a breakout star in 2021 earning a spot on the All-Star team and votes in the American League MVP balloting.

In the past a former Yankees prospect who went onto a long major league career, J.T. Snow, gave up switch hitting in 1999 while with the San Francisco Giants. Asked about the decision years later he said, “I should have done this a lot earlier in my career.”

The concern for Garcia is that his pull heavy, massive power approach is different from that of Snow or Mullins who utilize a gap-to-gap style of hitting. The benefit for him is that he is only 21 years old, much younger than either Mullins or Snow were when they attempted the feat. He also has the allure of playing future home games in Yankees Stadium, a place that has rewarded left-handed power hitters in all of its iterations for nearly a century.

Anthony Garcia has tremendous power from both sides of the plate. Yet the majority of his production, to the tune of 21 of his career 25 home runs have come from the left-hand side. As Garcia begins his climb through the system, he should consider focusing his efforts as a left-handed hitter. He is a prospect to watch no matter what side of the plate he is on, but it is possible that maxing out his ceiling and ability lies as a lefty hitter.