Cal State Fullerton Athletics

2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #38 Justin Garza

The 2017 countdown continues with a high upside arm who is still coming off an injury that he suffered right before the 2015 Draft, but is set to see his first taste of expanded action this season and pitch in front of crowds for the first time...

38. Justin Garza - Right-handed Pitcher

Born: 03/20/1994 - Height: 5'10" - Weight: 170 - Bats: Right - Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Garza was selected by the Indians in the 8th round of the 2015 Draft and signed for $169,000. He was originally drafted out of high school by the Indians in the 26th round of the 2012 Draft, but opted to go to school rather than sign with the Indians. During the summer of 2014 he was a member of the USA Collegiate National Team and went 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA over eight appearances (four starts). His freshman season in 2013 was his best showing in college as he finished the season 12-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 17 starts (115.0 IP, 84 H, 17 BB, 95 K) and was named an All-American and the 2013 Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Stuff: Garza is an advanced arm who brings a lot of potential because of the combination of athleticism and stuff. He has a good three pitch mix that is led by a plus fastball that when healthy consistently sits between 91-93 MPH and will flash 96 MPH on occasion. He commands his fastball very well and shows the ability to locate it to the bottom of the zone and to both sides of the plate. He gets some good movement with it with some good, late life through the zone and some nice, hard sinking action to it. His average slurvy slider is the secondary offering he relies on the most and he shows an ability to spin it with some good action that brings some upside to be a wipeout pitch to righties and a plus offering for him as he gains more comfort with it and refines the command of it. His developing changeup is a solid offering that he is still learning to gain confidence using, but he shows a good feel for it and it has some good tumbling action to be a potential above average offering for him.

Delivery & Intangibles: Garza is an undersized pitcher with a lean, athletic build who doesn’t have a frame that allows for much durability to log a lot of innings. He throws from a three-quarter slot and has a high effort delivery that he manages to repeat well with some clean arm action – and the Indians believe that some of that energy he creates in his delivery creates some deception and will allow his stuff to translate consistently. He’s just someone who gets the most out of everything he has physically and just knows how to pitch. He has a very aggressive mindset on the mound where he goes right after hitters and is not afraid to challenge them inside. He checks off all the boxes from a makeup and work ethic standpoint as he’s very good in both areas.

Focus: Health was the main focus for Garza last season and will continue to be the focus this season as well. He suffered a slight tear of the UCL in his right elbow in the spring of 2015 which resulted in Tommy John surgery to repair it shortly before the draft. He spent the first year-plus in the organization rehabbing his elbow before he made his professional debut on July 30th last season in the rookie level Arizona League (0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R/ER, 1 HB, 1 BB, 1 K). The Indians monitored his workload the rest of the year giving him just 9.0 total innings and never more than two innings in any outing, and while the restrictions will be removed some this season he will still be very limited in the amount of innings he can throw and how long he can pitch. While the Indians work to get him back to full health he also needs to prove he can stay on the mound as the elbow injury in 2015 along with a shoulder injury in 2014 that sidelined him for some time bring about durability concerns. As he gets back into regular game action he should have a chance to really hone in on both of his secondary offerings to improve the command and break of his slider and more consistently locating his changeup to the bottom of the zone.

Future: Garza is still a great unknown as he’s totaled so few innings in two pro seasons. There is some considerable upside if he returns to form as he was a top two or three round talent who slid to the eighth round because of his injury, but it also remains to be seen if he can find that form again and be durable. The Indians are big believers in him as they went to great lengths to sign him out of high school and were not deterred from drafting a pitcher with an arm injury because of how much they believed in his talent, makeup and work ethic. The Indians have selected distressed properties like Garza out of the draft before with varying success, and they are hopeful that they will hit the jackpot with him as someone who could be a good starter or reliever at the Major League level. They plan to develop him as a starter to see where it goes and should be patient with him in that role, though a lot of people in the industry believe his true path to the big leagues will be as a late inning reliever because the stuff will play up in such a role and he will be able to stay healthier. He should open the season in the Low-A Lake County or High-A Lynchburg rotation; however, the Indians may have him start the season in extended spring training in order to manage his workload on the front end before sending him to Lake County or Lynchburg in May or even just wait until June and assign him to short season Short-A Mahoning Valley to get his feet wet before finishing in Lake County or Lynchburg.

Ranking History: #38 (2016)

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