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Wilkerman Garcia has put in a lot of work to put last season's disappointing campaign behind him.

TAMPA, FL -- Wilkerman Garcia was signed by the Yankees in 2014 at just 16 years old. After dealing with a shoulder injury that dampened his 2016 campaign and struggles at the plate in Pulaski, Garcia is healthy and already showing signs of growth in this young season down in Extended Spring Training.

Just by looking at Wilkerman Garcia, you can see the young signs of a talented ballplayer. He’s got great size for a shortstop, officially listed at six feet tall and 176 pounds, especially considering he’s just 19-years-old and claims to have gained 20 pounds of lean muscle this past offseason.

The Venezuela-born, switch hitting shortstop is already considered one of the top prospects, and with a disappointing 2016 season behind him, he’s happy with his progress to this point in 2017.

“I didn’t have a very good season last year, but I learned a lot with what I went through,” Garcia said through the help of a translator. “So the difference between this year and last year, I feel much better and more confident.”

You can see the potential in Garcia, but he’s still young and a raw talent that needs work. A key part of his game that he’s tried to develop, along with getting bigger and stronger, is his mentality on the field.

“Another thing that I’ve really focused on this year was the mental approach. I worked really hard during the offseason, worked out my legs, now I feel much better and I feel healthy for the upcoming season.”

Garcia ran into a shoulder injury during Spring Training last year and it seemed to have a lasting effect on his production. In 54 games with Pulaski in 2016, Garcia batted just .198 with 13 RBI’s and 14 extra-base hits.

“Before the season [last year], in Spring Training, I had a shoulder sprain so I dealt with that the whole year,” Garcia said. “But I worked really hard this offseason taking care of my shoulder, doing shoulder exercises, and it feels much better this year.”

With the injury behind him, it is all about improvement for this year.

“Pretty much I learned everything compared to last year, especially the mental approach. I knew that I had to come back in better shape, get into the routine with Extended Spring Training, and [last year was] really my first time playing under the lights and at night, so that was big.”

Garcia then added that he’s put on 20 pounds of lean muscle during the offseason, and talked about the difference that the extra weight is making.

“I feel healthy, I feel stronger, I feel like now I can compete in a long season,” Garcia said. “I did have a pretty good Spring Training, just competing and doing what they ask me to do.”

“He did pretty well,” hitting coach, Fransisco Leandro said. “He came out to Spring Training and got bigger, stronger and more flexible. We asked him to do all this stuff and he did it pretty good job during Spring Training. He’s been more selective with pitches. He was chasing a lot of breaking pitches out of the zone [last year], so that’s what he’s working on right now and where he’s made a big improvement from this year to last year.”

When asked where Leandro saw the most improvement from Garcia in Spring Training, he didn’t hesitate to emphasize the huge improvements that Garcia made to the mental part of his game.

“He’s more aware of players, of the plays, who’s running and who’s faster. It’s all the little things that he’s taking care of right now,” Leandro said. “He did well in spring training and he’s doing even better right now. I think that it’s great to have last year to help him understand and slow the game now. For a lot of these kids coming from Latin America, that’s one of the biggest things.”

As far as expectations? Leandro has high hopes for Garcia’s upcoming season.

“He’s going to have a good season. He’s shows that on the field and his mental approach has gotten so much better. He’s going to be one of the good guys for the New York Yankees. He’s made big time improvements since last year. We’re talking about 16 and 17-year-old kids, so this is all new to them, and seeing this kid coming along this well, it’s pretty sweet," Leandro concluded.


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