Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Garcia came stateside after a couple of seasons pitching for the Tigers Dominican Summer League affiliate. Despite rousing success in the Dominican, very few were expecting great things from Garcia. Pitching for the GCL Tigers in 2005, Ramon posted a 3.65 ERA in 56.2 innings. As a 20-year old pitching against much more inexperienced players, Garcia was in need of a true test of his abilities in 2006.
The Tigers skipped him to full-season ball at West Michigan in his second season stateside, and the early results were very promising. Ramon took home the TigsTown West Michigan Pitcher of the Month Award for April, after a stellar month that saw him log a 1.45/0.68 line and a 4-1 record, in 5 Midwest League starts. That 4-1 mark also included a complete game shutout, a rare occurrence at such a low level of the minor leagues. May saw continued success with another sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP. In June however, Garcia experience arm problems and went under the knife shortly thereafter; ending his season far too early.
Garcia has made huge strides over the last year, bumping his fastball up over 90, routinely sitting in the 90-92 range with plus movement. He has begun spotting his fastball better, at least low in the zone. When required to elevate his number one offering, he still struggles to keep it away from the middle of the plate, but he's more successful working down, so this shouldn't be a significant issue.
Ramon's curveball has also made huge strides, becoming an above-average second pitch that he has the confidence to use in any count. With two average to above-average pitches, Garcia's future has improved dramatically. His change-up still needs some work, but he has begun keeping it at the knees or below with regularity, which alleviates many problems with the below-average pitch.
Garcia's poise and intelligence on the mound is probably his most evident trait, as he controls the game with ease, and asserts his game plan on the opponent. He studies the game intently, and pitches to his plan extremely well. His athleticism is about average and he fields his position reasonably well. The intricacies of playing the position are coming along slowly, but he has made larges strides since his time in the DSL.
Garcia is one of the system's better lefty prospects, but that only goes so far in a system bereft of left-handers. At his best, he profiles as a solid #3 starter, but he is more likely to find long-term success in the bullpen.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Garcia's season-ending surgery was deemed minor, and few scouts or officials I spoke with seemed concerned with his long-term prognosis. Expect Garcia to be healthy come spring training.
If Garcia proves healthy from the outset this spring, he should spend the bulk of the season in the Lakeland rotation. If the Tigers opt to play it safe with Garcia, he may start the year in the bullpen, working his way back to a starting role. His recovery from surgery will dictate every step of his progress this season.
Garcia's ability to remain in the rotation will hinge on two main factors; his ability to remain healthy from this point forward, as well as the wealth of starting pitching prospects around him. If the organization continues to bring more and more pitchers into the fold, Garcia could be pushed to the bullpen to keep him moving. His future is likely in that role eventually, but as a lefty, he'll get additional chances to hang in the rotation.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.