On Tuesday the Cincinnati Reds played two games. One of those games was against the Colorado Rockies in their home ballpark, which is equipped with the Trackman system and it’s data is pushed to the public (all of the spring training facilities have the Trackman system – it’s not turned on for public consumption in most of them). In that game against the Rockies, Jose Garcia – who has been the talk of the spring – hit his fourth home run for Cincinnati. And it was a freaking laser beam.
In real time, this home run did not register with Gameday, while all previous batted balls were showing exit velocity in the game. The same thing happened with the home run hit later in the game by Alfredo Rodriguez. But after the game was over, that data showed up.
Jose Garcia’s home run left the bat at 110.4 MPH – an incredibly hard hit baseball. It was also only the 4th hardest hit ball of the game (Ryan McMahon had two singles hit harder, and Phillip Ervin grounded out at 11.7 MPH). But while it was only the 4th hardest hit ball, it was easily the furthest hit ball. At 412 feet, it topped the only other homer of the game – by Alfredo Rodriguez – by 28 feet.
The distance for the home run hit by Jose Garcia doesn’t really stand out. It would have been tied for the second longest home run he hit in 2019 with the Daytona Tortugas – but 412 feet would make it the 109th longest home run hit by a Cincinnati Reds minor league player last season. Among the big league club, 412 feet would have been the 58th longest of the year. But at 110.4 MPH off of the bat, that would have ranked as the 8th hardest hit home run by a Cincinnati Reds last season. Only Eugenio Suarez (four homers hit harder), Aristides Aquino (two homers hit harder), and Derek Dietrich (one homer hit harder) would have topped that.
Following the game I received an email from a scout that I know who was at the game. He was complimentary of the mechanical changes from Garcia since he had previously seen him, noting that he’s cleaned up the lower half in his swing and has eliminated a ton of excess movement. Dropped in a “lots to be excited about in regards to the offensive profile.”
While we are here, though, let’s talk about Alfredo Rodriguez. He, like Garcia, got a big signing bonus in the 2016-2017 international signing period. Unlike Garcia, he’s never hit anywhere – and no, hitting the most empty .286 you’ve ever seen in your life in Double-A last year doesn’t count because it came with a .347 slugging percentage.
But this spring he’s hitting the ball hard. He’s already hit two home run out in Arizona – which is one more than he hit in 436 plate appearances last season with Double-A Chattanooga. Rodriguez is not a small guy, he’s listed at 6′ 0″ and 190 lbs. But he’s never shown the ability to drive the ball. That’s changed a bit this spring – even with the small sample size stuff we need to be aware of.
We’ve seen Rodriguez driving the ball this spring. He’s homered twice, as noted above, and he’s also doubled twice – including one that banged off of the wall, coming up a few feet short of being a home run. The ball travels a bit different in Arizona, without a doubt, but the 25-year-old Cuban-born shortstop is now hitting .364 and slugging .606 through 33 plate appearances this spring.
He’s battled some health problems since signing. He missed most of 2018. And in 2017 he played in 118 games, but I had heard about some things he was dealing with that kept him from being 100%, too. The Reds have felt that there was more to his bat than he had showed. Last year he did at least make some strides in the average department. Are we starting to see the next step in his progression or is this him being hot in spring training? If we get to see baseball played this season, this could be one of the more interesting stories to keep track of.