TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #19: Greg Garcia

The infielder has over 300 games and 1000 at-bats at Triple-A, but will he stick with St. Louis?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: University of Hawaii

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
21 IF 08,08,89 6-0 175 L R 2010 7th

Selected 2015 stats

Mem 0.294 0.351 330 47 97 19 0 36 48 55 16 0.351 0.391 0.364 0.754
StL 0.240 0.262 75 7 18 5 2 4 10 12 0 0.318 0.337 0.387 0.724

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (22): During the community vote, Greg Garcia finished as the 22nd highest rated player. GM4aday chimed in first about Garcia, noting that Garcia is a proven minor leaguer with a good showing thus far in the major leagues. GM4aday also said that last year Garcia was ranked as the #21 prospect and likely deserves a bump up this year.

Skszyszowski countered that on the community voting thread, posting that just because Greg Garcia is on the Cardinals post-season roster doesn’t mean he can make our top 20 prospects list. This is similar to the sentiment about Garcia last year, as back then MagnoliaCardFan posted that a backup middle infielder is still a backup at best. I also posted that I thought it was telling that Kozma was consistently chosen over Garcia when a call-up was needed. Desmetlax12 posted that we have seen what Garcia can do and that he has value, noting that Garcia deserves a spot as one of the top 25 prospects in the Cardinals system. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (20): For what seems like the gazillionth winter, Garcia remains a qualified prospect, this time by technicality. However, the middle infielder accomplished one of his greatest feats of his career this past season - garnering The Cardinal Nation's Memphis Redbirds Player of the Year - his first such honor at any level.

Following a resurgent second half in 2014 with Memphis, Garcia held a proficient .294 average and posted a .391 on-base mark to live up to his reputation as a disciplined, high on-base hitter. Though, he didn't homer at the Triple-A level, Garcia compensated as his first big-league homer came at the expense of a game-tying shot against the archrival Chicago Cubs. Appearing mostly as a pinch-hitter at the big-league level, he slashed .240/.337/.387 in 49 games for St. Louis with two home runs and four RBI overall and also made the final cut on the Cardinals NLDS postseason roster with three at-bats on the postseason stage.

Garcia has shown he can spell his former double-play partner at U of Hawaii, Kolten Wong while advancing through the Cardinals system as a shortstop playing it at a sufficient level - a position at which Jedd Gyorko is not a proven defender. He also can handle third base as well to add to his versatility.

Coming into spring training in 2015, Garcia’s opportunity for consistent playing time at Memphis was questionable with the additions of Dean Anna and Ty Kelly. Also, he was competing for time up the middle against Pete Kozma, arguably twice the defender and already used to the major league level. Fast forward a year later, the Cardinals have parted ways with both Kelly and Kozma while Anna is clinging on the 40 man roster and Garcia is poised to break camp as a reserve with Jedd Gyorko.

Many evaluators ultimately see Garcia as nothing more than a utility piece at the major-league level. One scout said he wasn't too enthused over his skill-set at Triple-A, but given his recent success at the major-league level, Garcia grew on him, and a sound feel for the strike zone translates well and efficiently against the highest level of competition.

Brian Walton (16): A number of players have placed on this top 40 prospect list multiple years, a few as many as four times as has Garcia. However, what makes his candidacy unusual is that the infielder has not moved much at all during that time – either up or down. Specifically, since 2013, he has been ranked between #16 and #21 each year, with his current #19 ranking right in the middle.

So, which is it? Is Garcia incredibly consistent or did he plateau?

When I think about Garcia, Daniel Descalso often comes to mind - a decent minor league career without a standout glove or bat. For comparison, Descalso ranked eighth and 10th respectively in our top 40 prospect rankings in the two years as he neared the majors.

Here are the career (to-date) batting lines of the two at Triple-A.

Descalso: 162 games - .275/.344/.396/.741
Garcia: 310 games - .279/.374/.377/.752

Offensively, they are pretty much the same player, with Garcia drawing a few more walks and Descalso having shown a bit more power.

Notice Garcia’s games played total above. He has already logged over 1000 career at-bats at the Triple-A level, and reached St. Louis briefly in each of the last two seasons. It is hard to believe more minor league seasoning is required, but the acquisition of Jedd Gyorko was not exactly a vote of confidence for Garcia’s MLB status.

And if he is able to stick longer, it is not out of the question to assume a Descalso-like ceiling could be ahead. As a reminder, the Cardinals wanted more out of their middle infield reserve, letting Descalso leave without compensation last off-season following four years of a .654 OPS.

I can understand why many think Garcia will make St. Louis’ roster this coming spring. However, I am less sure of that. If the club signs a free agent outfielder to replace Jason Heyward, someone will lose out on their 25-man roster spot.

The easiest alternatives to cut would be one of the two projected reserves with minor league options remaining – either Tommy Pham or Garcia. Yet unless the new signee is a center fielder, the club could easily decide to retain Pham to back up Randal Grichuk and keep Garcia warm in Memphis with bags packed in case of emergency.

But even if Garcia has to return to Memphis, the first infield opening would seem to be his - unless Dean Anna has a hot spring, perhaps. Just don’t expect more from Garcia than Descalso provided the Cardinals and you won't be disappointed.

Our 2016 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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