The tremendous defensive plays third baseman Adonis Garcia has made the last two days requires us to take a closer look at his season. Just how good has Garcia played this year?
Okay, we know Garcia doesn’t walk. We know his on base percentage is .312. But as has been stated before, it’s not all about OBP.
Garcia has improved tremendously in his second MLB season. More specifically, Garcia has improved tremendously in the second go-around this season.
Overall, through 86 games played in Atlanta, Garcia is hitting .272 with nine home runs, 38 runs batted in and 18 doubles. That’s coming on top of Garcia’s debut last season, when he hit .277 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI in just 191 at bats.
Most of Garcia’s issues early on were defensive troubles at third base. It got so bad the Braves put Garcia in left field on May 1 before optioning him to Gwinnett May 7. Garcia’s fielding percentage at third base before being sent down was .837, as he made seven errors.
He was also not as impressive at the plate as he had been last season. Garcia hit .260 with 1 home run (hit on opening day) and 8 runs batted in with a .319 OBP.
So Garcia went to Gwinnett and played for Brian Snitker, who just a little over a week later would take over for manager Fredi Gonzalez in Atlanta. Garcia hit .356 with a .413 OBP, 4 home runs and 18 RBI in 19 games.
Since his return in late-May, Garcia has been a different player. The Braves gave up on putting Garcia in left field, and it helped that Mallex Smith came up and made an impression to get more playing time in the outfield. Garcia’s fielding percentage at third base since being called back up from Gwinnett is .952. That’s not great, but it’s a heck of a lot better than .837.
Offensively, Garcia has been much more productive. He’s hit .277 (61 hits in 220 at bats) with 8 home runs, 30 RBI and 16 doubles since his return. He’s been even better since July 1: a .333 (45 hits in 121 at bats) average with 4 home runs, 17 RBI, 13 doubles and a .372 on base percentage.
Snitker deserves credit for putting Garcia back in the lineup and sticking with him. You might think he didn’t really have much choice considering how the lineup so desperately needed a productive bat, but Snitker has repeatedly voiced his belief in Garcia to help the Atlanta club.
So with Garcia doing well, now what? Can Garcia be the stopgap at third base until Austin Riley and/or Kevin Maitan are ready in a couple of years? Do the Braves gamble that Garcia can be a decent option for them at a very important position?
The Braves will likely watch Garcia very closely for the rest of the season. Forget about batting average or OBP for a minute. Garcia could finish with around 13-15 home runs and pushing 60 RBI in around 130 games. Would that be good enough to convince the Braves to not pursue a third baseman this winter?
Let’s be honest about that. Martin Prado is a free agent this offseason. Prado loves Atlanta. He never wanted to leave. I don’t even have to ask. Prado would love to come home. Would it be good to have a familiar face like Prado in the lineup when Sun Trust Park opens next April?
It makes sense. Prado is 8th in the National League with his .318 batting average this season. He’s still a good baseball player. But he’s 32 years old. Prado is unlikely to get a huge contract again. More likely, Prado will command a deal for three years at maybe… $40 million total.
The Braves could afford to pay Prado around $13 mil a season for the next three years. That would give Riley and Maitan more time to develop. It would also give the Braves fans someone they love back in the uniform for the new stadium.
Garcia’s play is giving the Braves’ front office a most valuable commodity – options. If Garcia continues his strong play and finishes well, the Braves could simply stick with him for third base. Or, the could sign Prado and elect to shop Garcia to an American League team that might want his bat in a lineup.
Garcia should have value. Maybe the Braves could get back a solid late-inning reliever for next season for Garcia, or even package him with others to get a starting pitcher. Other teams are paying attention to what Garcia is doing, and if the Braves did decide to go in that direction there would likely be a market for him.
The Braves should be thrilled with Garcia’s improvement. As the team with the worst record in baseball, they need as many positive stories as possible. Garcia has been fun to watch, which is something we likely never thought we’d say early this season.
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