Scouting Rangers Prospect #42: Leury Garcia

Armed with some exciting tools, shortstop Leury Garcia is absolutely one of the top sleeper prospects in the Texas Rangers system. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 18-year-old with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Leury Garcia
Position: Shortstop
DOB: March 18, 1991
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 153
Bats: Both
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2007 International Free Agent

Since signing with the Texas Rangers organization over two years ago, infielder Leury Garcia has earned the nickname ‘Furcalito.'

As a .225 career hitter in 405 professional at-bats, Garcia wouldn't appear to have much in common with 10-year big leaguer Rafael Furcal. That is, other than the fact that both are small-statured Dominican shortstops.

But get a quick glimpse of Garcia on the field, and the comparison makes perfect sense.

Garcia is currently a long way from the Major Leagues, without a doubt. However, his laser arm, incredible range, and burning speed make him very similar to a young Furcal tools-wise.

In two professional seasons, the Rangers have assigned the young Garcia aggressively. He passed over the Dominican Summer League and instead played in the rookie-level AZL as a 17-year-old.

Garcia had a rough summer, batting just .209 with eight walks and 40 strikeouts in 129 official at-bats with the AZL Rangers. However, he wasn't fazed. Less than a month after finishing off the regular season, Garcia came back and placed second in the hitters' points system [behind Justin Smoak] at Fall Instructional League.

As an 18-year-old, Garcia began the 2009 campaign in Extended Spring Training, but he earned an assignment to Single-A Hickory before long. Passing up short-season Spokane entirely, Garcia went on to bat .232 with six doubles, three triples, and one home run in 83 games.

The numbers were far from impressive, but considering the previous year's AZL production, it was an improvement. Garcia clearly wasn't blown away by the South Atlantic League competition. He consistently put together competitive at-bats and showed improvement as the year progressed.

Following the '09 campaign, the Rangers assigned Garcia to their Advanced Instructional League team, where he continued to impress Rangers coaches and officials with his ability to compete and do the little things.

Although the statistical production isn't there yet, it's hard not to be impressed with Garcia's potential after seeing him in person. The organization is high on the shortstop prospect, and he has the tools to be a difference maker in the Major Leagues.

Also See: Seven teams, seven sleepers (November 13, 2009)
Sizing up the middle infield prospects (September 28, 2009)
Rangers minor league notes (March 17, 2009)

Batting and Power: Despite entering the season with just 41 games of professional experience [all of which came in rookie ball] and going straight to Single-A Hickory, Garcia wasn't overmatched by the pitching in 2009. He batted just .232 with a .574 OPS, but he also made plenty of contact [64 strikeouts in 276 at-bats] and kept himself alive by spoiling pitches when he fell behind in the count.

While Garcia was able to put the ball in play, his approach left something to be desired, as he often swung early and rarely worked counts. Garcia handles the bat pretty well, particularly for a young switch-hitter that was aggressively assigned to the Sally League last season. But at 5-foot-7, 153-pounds, he doesn't figure to hit for much power down the line, and he'll be best served learning to use his speed to his advantage with the bunting game and intelligent base running. Overall, Garcia has the speed and defensive skills it takes to become a big league infielder, but his bat will ultimately decide his fate as a prospect.

Base Running and Speed: Garcia's speed rates among the best in the Rangers' organization. And after the trade of Greg Golson to the Yankees, Garcia may legitimately be the fastest player in the system. He still needs to mature on the basepaths, but he shows promise as a base stealer, swiping 19 bags in 25 attempts in 2009. Garcia has the raw ability to steal bases at will in the minor leagues, and he figures to be a major difference maker on the bases at the upper levels.

Defense: There are two things to know about Garcia's defense: he has incredible tools, and he is raw. Garcia's range and arm strength are probably the best in the entire system––including the Major Leagues. However, he committed 42 errors in just 83 games at Hickory last season, giving him a paltry .888 fielding percentage. Like many young shortstops, the 18-year-old often struggles with ‘routine' plays and he should cut down on the errors as he matures. As long as Garcia continues to work on his hands and focus in the field, he should develop into a premium defensive shortstop.

Projection: Though Garcia doesn't have a particularly high ceiling, some of his outstanding tools could make him very good at what he does. As previously mentioned, the shortstop possesses a plus arm, plus range, and plus speed. If he puts it together and hits even a little bit, he could contribute to a big league club as a valuable player off the bench. Clearly Garcia must cut down on his errors––and that should happen as he matures––but ultimately, the deciding factor will be his bat. If Garcia hits, he has the ability to become an everyday big leaguer. If not, he may never see Double-A Frisco.

2010 Outlook: Garcia is likely to repeat at Single-A Hickory, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He made a huge jump last season in going from the AZL as a first-year professional all the way to full-season ball, skipping Spokane entirely. Garcia will turn just 19 during Spring Training, so skipping a level wouldn't be much of a setback at all. He will likely spend the entire 2010 season with Hickory, although there is a chance he could get a crack at Bakersfield before the year is over.

ETA: 2013.

2008 AZL Rangers (RK) .209 129 3 0 14 17 12 8 40 .250 .279
2009 Hickory (A) .232 276 6 1 18 28 19 18 64 .288 .286

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