Name: Wilkerman Garcia
DOB: April 1, 1998
Batting and Power. Though his .198 average in Pulaski last year might not exactly be proof positive of it, Garcia has all the makings of an eventual high-average hitter in place; advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition, a palpable calming presence and plate patience, and both a willingness and a plan to use the entire field when he hits. Unlike most players his age he doesn't get too bogged down trying to do too much at the plate and rather takes what the pitchers give them, and shoots liners from gap to gap. He even has solid swing mechanics for somebody his age too, especially for a switch-hitter, as advanced as a young switch-hitter can be that is. So forget his lower batting average in 2016, that should be more of the anomaly than the norm as he continues to progress as a hitter and gets accustomed to playing under the lights [last year was his first season playing night games]. While everything about his approach and swing mechanics suggest high-average hitting down the road, what isn't so clear is just how far his power will develop in the coming years. Right now he projects to have average power long-term given his quick wrists and great bat speed, but there isn't much natural loft to his swing either so it may take a while for the home run power to show up.
Base Running and Speed. We mentioned a year ago that while Garcia is an advanced bat that it was in the running game where he proves to be a player more his own age. An above average runner speed-wise right now, he's still just so raw that he runs himself and his team into outs when attempting to steal, and in essence that lack of success he has stealing bases has given himself his own red light. That less than aggressive approach has not only limited his running game but essentially stalled it. He has a lot maturing to do learning how to read pitchers' moves better so while he has the wheels to be a 20-plus stolen base threat each year it's his waning running confidence and gun-shy tendencies he has to combat to maximize his running game.
Defense. Unlike his running game, Garcia, much like his hitting, is advanced in nearly every way and confident 100 percent of the time. He has all of the physical tools to be one of the steadier defenders at the position; above average range, good hands, and above average arm strength. What separates him though from players his own age is the natural feel he has for the position. He simply has a way of slowing the game down, putting himself in optimal defensive position pre-pitch, and making all of the necessary plays look smooth. He has the arm strength to slide over to third down the road if need too and the athleticism to fill in more than capably at second base as well.
Projection. It's ironic that the two now play in the same farm system but projection-wise there are a ton of similarities between Garcia and current top prospect Gleyber Torres; advanced hitting approach and swing mechanics, average long-term power potential, smooth and steady defensive abilities at shortstop but have the versatility to play other positions as well, and huge mental makeup that should allow the physical tools to be maximized when it's all said and done. It's that last tool -- the seldom talked about Jeter-like intangibles -- that could and really should lend itself to an overall consistency on both sides of the ball that will most likely separate him from his peers too. And like Torres it may take a bit longer for the in-game power-speed combo to show up more consistently, especially with Garcia being a switch-hitter, but once it does it will be an expected quality day in and day out. With the kind of physical frame that could support getting much more physically stronger in the coming years too there's really no telling how far the power potential may develop. In fact, there have been some switch-hitting comparisons to Robinson Cano frame-wise and hitting-wise, and like Cano the power may not show up until the higher minor league levels or beyond. The whole package screams long-term big league starting potential and perhaps even higher upside if things break right.
ETA. N/A. Short-term it's more about getting comfortable playing under the lights and not letting his sub-par performance last year affect his naturally high confidence. His game is advanced enough that the Yankees could push him to low-A Charleston in 2017 where the soon to be 19-year old would still be one of the younger position players. However, considering his game could begin to move very quickly once everything starts to click and with unbelievable shortstop depth up and down the farm system, there's really no reason to rush him in the short-term either so there is a strong possibility the Yankees could take their time with him, allow him ore playing time in Extended Spring Training, and send him to Staten Island instead. The Yankees have some options with him.