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Opposite-field power, infield singles and defense. That’s a difficult way for a corner outfield to distinguish himself, so when Avisail Garcia made it through the trade deadline and subsequent offseason without a high-profile rumor attached to him despite the freshly minted All-Star status, I treated it as the entire league telling him, “Betcha can’t do it again.”
Sure enough, Garcia’s had a start that fits in with his old profile. He’s hitting just .233/.250/.315 over his first 18 games, and it’s unclear when he’ll play a 19th. He needed assistance leaving the field after pulling a hamstring trying to beat out a grounder to the left side during the second inning on Monday. It was the game’s only low point.
Even the timing of the injury was a trademark of his track record, which featured multiple instances of DL stints interrupting upswings.
His season to date has been defined by a massive 2-for-34 slump, during which his noted aggressiveness was used against him to entice league-leading swing and chase rates. He’s the only qualifying hitter in baseball who hasn’t drawn a walk this season.
One of the reasons the White Sox maintained faith in Garcia through his interminable struggles was that he performed better with runners in scoring position, showing the tendency even before his breakout season:
- Bases empty: .246/.296/.381
- Men on: .272/.328/.398
- Scoring position: .292/.349/.441
While a lot of RISP performance is small-sample noise, the Sox saw somebody who better harnessed his aggression when all-fields contact could score runs. The rebuild gave them the opportunity to play that hunch, and it worked.
But this year, Garcia’s lack of discipline even plagued his clutch performances. He entered Monday just 1-for-16 with six strikeouts, chasing a lot of first-pitch breaking balls and rolling over most everything to the left side. He acknowledged the problem to James Fegan:
“I’m not feeling good,” García said. “I’ve been swinging at bad pitches and missing a lot too. But it’s going to come. I’m just working and I’m not worried about that. It’s early in the season and I know what I can do. I’m just trying to have a good at-bat every time.”
There have been signs of life. Over the last couple of days, he finally came through with the assortment of hits that got him to a .330 average last year. On Sunday, he rolled an infield single down the third-base line, then blistered a 107-mph liner for another base hit. On Monday, he inside-outed a tough pitch to right for just his second clutch hit of the year.
The extent of Garcia’s injury is not yet known, but he seems destined for the disabled list given the way he reacted to the strain. If that assumption pans out, Daniel Palka looks like the only fit on the 40-man, and that status should give him the inside track since the 40-man is already full (even with Carlos Rodon and Danny Farquhar on the 60-day DL), and the Sox might need to add a starter for their doubleheader against Kansas City.
Palka is not much of a defender, but the 26-year-old is hitting .286/.384/.476, with some lefty pop that could pair well with Trayce Thompson as they try to piece together the kind of production that they expected Garcia to provide.
I don’t always have a great feel for these isolated roster moves, but we should know earlier than usual since the White Sox have an unusual 4:10 p.m. Central start time today.
Update (11:04 a.m.): And Palka it is:
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) April 24, 2018