Top St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Magneuris Sierra made a big enough impression in spring training that a major-league coach though he was competing for a big-league roster spot. As a result, many expected the lauded five-tool player to leap over High-A Palm Beach and patrol center field as the priority player for Double-A Springfield in 2017.
That wasn't the case, however, as Sierra is earmarked for Palm Beach to start the year.
Fortunately, the Springbirds did not receive a bad consolation prize.
The everyday center fielder to open the season for the Double-A Cardinals will be Cuban Adolis Garcia, who is arguably Sierra 2.0.
His new 2017 skipper at Springfield is a believer.
"He's got a lot of ability," manager Johnny Rodriguez said of Garcia. "He's got tools, a five-tool guy."
For the recent signee to fully acclimate, though, patience will be required.
"He hasn't played in over six months," Rodriguez added. "His timing is going to be off. It is going to take baby steps for him."
Garcia, who had to wait another three weeks before he could play in official action in major-league camp, said it was hard to sit out because he said if he had been cleared sooner, he may have had a chance to play at a higher level.
"I felt I made a good impression with the tools I have and my career playing baseball," Garcia said while his manager acted as his translator. "Hopefully, I can continue to impress to move up a level."
Despite a limited look, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny raved about Garcia, who was 2-for-13 (.154) with an RBI and three stolen bases over 10 games.
"When we finally did get him on the field, he showed that he is a plus-plus runner and a very good defender," Matheny said. "Terrific arm. Didn't really see him enough at the plate to draw any conclusions, but he looks like a solid player.
"A kid that loves to play the game all the way around. There's a lot of reason to be excited from what we've seen from him," the big-league manager concluded.
As far as being eased into action and acclimating, Rodriguez batted Garcia ninth in last weekend’s exhibition against St. Louis. Garcia, who received a reported $2.5 million signing bonus in February, collected two hits and a walk for Springfield in the Route 66 Rumble.
Further, the right-hander hitter with a quick, explosive swing came up inches short of an opposite-field home run in the ninth off Dakota Hudson, a blast that was caught for the final out of the game on the right field warning track at Hammons Field.
"He is a tools guy that hasn't played a lot," Rodriguez said. "With his type of swing, it's a high-maintenance swing which means he's got to play a lot because it's big. It's a pre-swing movement. Really big and it's not on time a lot - that's what happens towards the end (of the swing).
"When he gets in shape, he's going to dominate." - manager Johnny Rodriguez
"We're going to have to be patient. When he gets in shape, he's going to dominate. He can do everything - run, throw, he's got pop, and he can get 'em in the outfield. Right now it's baby steps."
In terms of his offense or defense being major-league quality right now, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, would not commit.
"Based on what I saw from him, I think he just needs to get back into playing," Mozeliak said. "A lot of times, these Cuban players miss a significant amount of baseball time. For him, I think that's something we have to be patient with.
"I like his offensive skill-set, especially as it relates to a center fielder. It's going to be fun to watch."
Garcia hopes to refine his offense in order to move up a level from Springfield to Triple-A Memphis.
"Overall, I have to adjust (to this caliber of baseball)," he said through Rodriguez. "It's a very different game where I came from on the offensive side."
It should not take long.
“It’s a dream (to be with the Cardinals),” Garcia said. “I feel like my goals are closed and my objectives are coming to reach my dreams.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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