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2016 Yankees Roster Report Card: Wilkerman Garcia

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The 18-year-old shortstop had a rough season, but age is clearly on his side.

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: D

2016 Statistics: 54 games, .198/.255/.284, 10 2B, 1 HR, 4 SB, 52 wRC+

2016 Level/Roster Status: Adv-Rk/Non-40

One of the Yankees’ top prizes in the 2014 international free agent binge, Garcia was signed out of Venezuela for a $1.35 million bonus. He was so well-regarded that in 2015, he went stateside to the Gulf Coast League despite only being 17. He drew rave reviews as he hit .281/.396/.347 in 37 games with good reviews on his defense. Some scouts even said that they preferred his future over the advanced Jorge Mateo.

Entering this year, the industry was understandably abuzz on Garcia. Baseball America had him ranked ninth in the Yankees’ system, and ESPN’s Keith Law had him two spots higher. Both praised his switch-hitting ability and his command of the strike zone at such a precocious age. There was a sense that he might end up moving to another position down the road, but in general, it looked like the Yankees had another nice shortstop prospect.

Although that last fact is still the case and Garcia’s future is bright, 2016 brought the sobering reality of growing pains. Garcia hurt his shoulder in the spring and took awhile to recover. It’s certainly possible that he never did, as he suffered a dismal performance at the plate in Advanced Rookie ball in Pulaski. He didn’t hit well from either side and while he was decent at home (.213/.273/.328), he was abysmal on the road (.180/.234/.230).

Yankees fans should definitely not forget about Garcia just yet though. For what it’s worth, he was still a very young player at the level, 18 years old and two and a half years younger than the average age in the Appalachian League. Garcia was in a terrible rut over the first month and a half, but from August onward, he did improve to a .247/.302/.359 triple slash in 22 games. That isn’t great, but it’s still a sign of growth and progress in the teenage shortstop. For these reasons, he doesn’t quite deserve an outright failing grade.

MLB.com had Garcia as the fifth-ranked Yankees prospect prior to 2016, and even with the negative overall numbers, they kept him just outside the top 10 at number 11 by season’s end. They still like his defense (as do the Yankees), and his ability to use the entire field as both a lefty and a righty.

Garcia might very well return to Pulaski in 2017, or perhaps only graduate to Staten Island rather than full-season ball in Charleston. If that’s the case, that’s really okay. He will only be 19 on Opening Day next year and if the shoulder injury had any lingering concerns, he should be over them.

With the likes of Mateo, Gleyber Torres, and Tyler Wade all stealing the spotlight, Garcia will be an under-the-radar prospect next season. Don’t be surprised at all, however, if he manages to return to the form that made scouts so optimistic about him earlier this year.