On Wednesday afternoon the Cincinnati Reds called up shortstop prospect Jose Garcia. The game was eventually postponed. We’re going to chalk that one up as good for a whole lot of reasons – mostly because of why the two teams decided to strike and not play the game – but what it also did was provide me with enough time to really put together this article with as much information as possible rather than something else that would have been shorter, less detailed, and a lot of quotes that otherwise wouldn’t have been in here.
Let’s start with some of the quotes, and we’ll go directly to the source in Jose Garcia himself.
On how he found out that he was being promoted to the Major Leagues (he was on the taxi squad for this road trip, so he was in Milwaukee with the team):
“I was in my room and I got a call to go to the managers room, David Bell’s room, and that’s where he told me,” said Garcia through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “They told me I was on the team and they congratulated me being on the team.”
On how it felt being put into the lineup and getting ready to play in the Major Leagues:
“It’s very grandiose,” Garcia said. “It’s something, you an tell I have a smile on my face, so I’m ready to contribute to this team and really give it all my best that I have to make this team better. I feel phenomenal. I feel excited. I have all the words that can’t come about right now. I just feel grateful for the opportunity to come out here and help this team.”
On working at Prasco Park and facing off against Major Leaguers and if that helped prepare him for now:
“Yeah, for sure,” Garcia said. “I think facing these Major Leaguers has really helped me a lot. It’s given me an opportunity to face them, and get some at-bats in and it’s definitely prepared me to get up here.”
Before the game was postponed, manager David Bell spoke with the local media via zoom and had a lot to say about Jose Garcia.
On calling up Jose Garcia
“Jose Garcia’s really impressed. He’s a young player, spring training we got to know him – he had an excellent spring training,” said Bell. ” (He’s) Really mature beyond his years, he’s still a very young player. Yeah – it was the right time to add him to the team, to bring him here and for a young player to join at this time, it only makes sense if they’re going to play a lot and get a lot of starts and a lot of playing time. That doesn’t mean he’s going to play every inning of every game, but we really went into this committing to giving him an opportunity to play. And we believe just by being the best version of Jose Garcia, he’s going to contribute to helping our team win without trying to be too much. It was the right time. It’s exciting to add a player to the middle of the field. He has range, he has athleticism. He’s shown what he can do offensively. There’s definitely growing pains there, but we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think that by having him in the lineup, we determined that was our best lineup to win right now. So that’s how the decision was made.”
On playing time moving forward for both Garcia and Freddy Galvis
“Yeah, he’s going to play. His primary position is shortstop,” Bell said. “Freddy Galvis has played short for us every day. He will continue to get some starts at short. Like I said, I don’t think Jose Garcia’s going to necessarily play every single day, so Freddy will continue to play some at short. Freddy can also play the other infield positions – he can play third base, he can play second base. With the DH there’s some opportunities to some of our other infielders into the DH role to keep Freddy engaged, to keep him playing enough to be a part of this team. Freddy’s been an every day player, but his flexibility, his versatility allows the potential for him to kind of turn into more of a super utility type of role and still get a lot of playing time.”
On what made now the time to make the move to bring him up
“It had more to do with him, with Jose Garcia. He’s an exciting young player, a prospect who adds youth, he adds range, he adds athleticism,” said Bell. “There’s never a perfect time for a young player, there’s not a perfect day that says ‘ok he’s ready’, so there’s a lot that goes into the decision. It was the best decision for our team and what we believed to be, to the best of our ability to determine that it was the right time for Jose Garcia – which is really important because of how important he is to our organization. We believe in our staff, not only at Prasco – player development, but we believe in our Major League staff to continue that development process while putting him in a position – we’re here to win games, we’re here to get to the playoffs. It’s not your typical development situation, but that development will continue at this level and we’re positioned to provide that for him.”
On how familiar Bell was with Garcia prior to spring training
“I was not. I had not seen him play in person. I had heard a lot about him from different people throughout the organization that had seen him a lot. He definitely impressed. Shortstop is such an important position on the field. There’s no question, so when you have a young player with the ability and talent, the potential that he has – it was really exciting to see that in spring training. When that was going to happen, we didn’t know for sure, but we knew that he was going to be a part of our team at some point. So to have that kind of prospect at that important of a position on the field. That’s tough to come by. It’s just such an important spot on the field, it has the ability to make everyone better if you have someone like we believe he’s going to be playing that position.”
Mark Payton, who is also a rookie just getting his first taste of playing time in the Major Leagues this season (he debuted last week) and had been at Prasco Park with Jose Garcia for a few weeks, and also in Goodyear with him during spring training, was asked what he thought about the young shortstop.
“(The) Guy’s an animal,” said Payton of Garcia. “Works hard, understands that he’s extremely talented. He’s going to have a really good big league career. Looking forward to watching him play for some time. He belongs here, and that’s the biggest thing. Once you know you belong, you can play here. And I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Jose Garcia’s Background
The Reds signed Jose Garcia out of Cuba in June of 2017. He got a signing bonus of $5,000,000, but Cincinnati actually paid nearly twice as much. This was the final signing period in which teams could spend whatever amount of money that they wanted on players on the international market as long as they were willing to accept the penalties associated with that. The Reds were, and one of those penalties was paying a 100% tax on money spent beyond a team’s pool money. Garcia got his bonus, but the Reds basically paid that same amount in penalty to Major League Baseball for it, too.
When he signed, he had just recently turned 19-years-old. The Cuban-born shortstop hadn’t played much in the Cuban National Series, the professional league in the country. He had played in just 17 games the previous year as an 18-year-old, hitting .306/.359/.361. At the time he was nearly 11 years younger than the average age of a player in the league. Prior to his time in the Cuban National Series, Garcia had played internationally with the Cuban National Team as a member of their U-18 team.
Jose Garcia’s Professional Career
Despite signing in June of 2017, Jose Garcia couldn’t begin playing immediately. While he was approved to sign by Major League Baseball, and he did, he didn’t actually get into any games that summer. He spent the time after signing working out and getting back into the groove of things after spending time off leaving Cuba. He eventually would wind up at the Reds facility in the Dominican Republic where he would participate in the instructional league held there following the season.
The 2018 Season
In 2018 the plan was to hold Jose Garcia back in extended spring training for a bit, let him develop some, and then see where to send him later in the year. But that spring Garcia just looked outstanding out in Goodyear. I wrote at the time that he was far and away the best player I saw on the field for the week I was out there that spring. He just flat out looked better than everyone else he was on the field with, while working out with the Low-A squad. I wasn’t the only one who saw that, either, as the Reds made the decision to put him in Dayton to begin the season.
Unfortunately for Jose Garcia the success he showed in Goodyear at the plate did not carry over once he arrived in Dayton and the Midwest League. While he did show improvements in OPS each month of the season, it’s tough to say that any month of the year outside of August was particularly good in 2018, and while he had a .780 OPS on the month, he also had one walk and 29 strikeouts. He finished with a .245/.290/.344 line that featured just 19 walks and 122 strikeouts.
Despite the ugly numbers, watching him play every day, he looked a lot better than the numbers suggested he would. The hitting tools were there. The results just weren’t. But you could see the pieces. Defensively is where he really stood out, though. He was athletic, could go both directions, and his arm jumped out at you. Not only was the arm strength impressive – showing outstanding carry on his throws – but his release was short and quick.
The 2019 Season
When the 2019 season began for the Daytona Tortugas, it didn’t begin for Jose Garcia. The shortstop missed the first three weeks of the year before joining the team. The Florida State League is as pitcher friendly of a league as you’re going to find in the minors, and it’s been that way since the league began. The season was a bit up-and-down for Garcia on the offensive side of things, but the downs were still league average of better, and his ups peaked with a .997 OPS in August that saw him hit .378/.426/.571 over the final 25 games of the year.
When all was said and done, he had hit .280/.343/.436 on the season. On the surface that doesn’t seem that impressive, but we need to remember the league that it was in and once we factor that in, we’re talking about a triple-slash line that was good enough for the 4th highest OPS+ in the league among qualified hitters. Jose Garcia led the league with 37 doubles, added in a triple, and he hit 8 home runs. He also stole 15 bases in 16 attempts during the year. Offensively he was significantly better than the year before. He drew more walks, 25 of them, and he cut back on the strikeouts, too.
The 2020 Season
There hasn’t exactly been a 2020 season. But there was a spring training. And for Jose Garcia, he’s also spent time on the alternate roster at Prasco Park. Let’s start by talking about spring training. Garcia led the Reds in home runs, hitting four of them in 26 at-bats across 15 games. Overall he hit .269/.300/.769 with a walk and three strikeouts. But spring training came to an abrupt end in mid-March.
When things picked up again in July, the Reds assigned Jose Garcia to the Prasco Park roster. Before the regular season began he did spend some time at Great American Ballpark participating in some intrasquad games and practices. There were no stats kept for those games, though. When the regular season did begin he went off to play at Prasco Park, where once again, there were no official stats kept as the team couldn’t really play games and did what they could to get live at-bats and simulated games in.
His time at Prasco saw him making progress and developing. Garcia spent time working with his 2018 manager Luis Bolivar, who is one of the coaches at Prasco Park, on his defense – working on some of the smaller details on the defensive side of things to compliment the natural tools he shows. I was also told that he looked good against both high end velocity and good secondary stuff while showing off some power.
Jose Garcia’s Scouting Report
Position: SS | B/T: R/R
Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: “175” lbs | Acquired: International FA 2017
Born: April 5, 1998
Hitting | He’s got a slightly above-average hit tool.
Power | He has above-average raw power.
Running | Garcia shows above-average speed.
Defense | He’s a plus defender.
Arm | He has a plus-plus arm.
He is listed at 175 lbs., more recent reports have Jose Garcia around the 200 lb. mark as he’s added to his frame since he signed and the weight column hasn’t been updated since.
We covered a lot of the defensive information above, and I don’t want regurgitate that much. He’s a strong defender with a chance to be one of the stronger defenders in the league.
Offensively there’s a bit more to talk about that we didn’t cover above. Jose Garcia did get exposed to better pitching in 2020 than he ever faced in the past. Between the guys he saw in spring training and then at Prasco Park – it’s different than the guys he saw in A-ball the previous two seasons. He found success in the spring, and the reports I did get on his time at Prasco were good – but in both cases there’s not a ton of information to put a lot of faith in. In the spring the sample size was small, and at Prasco it’s a matter of facing teammates who pitch slightly different than opposing pitchers would. Reports of success, along with the ability to have actually seen him have success in the spring is better than the alternative, though.
If we want to focus on where the concern could be, it’s going to be the low walk rate that he’s shown in the minors since signing. Across two seasons he’s walked 44 times in 969 plate appearances. That’s a walk rate of just 4.5%. That’s about half of what you’d like to see. The good news is that it did improve in 2019, but it was just up to 5.5% – still a lot lower than you would ideally like to see.
When it comes to his ability to hit, that’s going to be tied to how he handles the strikezone. Just like every hitter, he’s going to hit balls in the strikezone more than ones out of the strikezone, so limiting what he swings at will be key. When it comes to where he hits the ball, he’s got some pull tendencies but he can and does go the other way. Here’s the breakdown of where he’s hit the ball in his career (minors only, no spring training).
I’ve been saying for the last two years that Garcia is the most underrated prospect in baseball. He just looks better, at least to my eyes, than he’s been given credit for when it comes to the national rankings. To me he’s a Top 75 prospect in the game. He’s got above-average tools across the board, and some of those tools are already on-field skills that he can use.
Just how much he can hit for out of the gate is going to be a question. While he’s certainly faced quality pitching this year, it’s a very big jump from Advanced-A where he played last year to the Major Leagues. He’s still just 22-years-old, too. As David Bell noted, he’s still going to be developing at this level. There are likely going to be some ups-and-downs at the plate. He can make pitchers pay for mistakes – everyone saw that in spring training, and the Florida State League pitchers saw it all of 2019. He can have an aggressive approach at times, though, and that could lead to more advanced pitchers being able to get him to expand the zone a bit.
Breaking Down Jose Garcia’s Stats
Looking at the splits
In both 2018 and 2019, Jose Garcia hit better against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching. In 2018 he hit .244/.294/.347 against righties with 16 walks and 88 strikeouts. That same year he hit .246/.279/.336 against lefties with 3 walks and 24 strikeouts.
During the 2019 season the numbers were better against both righties and lefties. Against right-handed pitchers he hit .277/.351/.453 with 23 walks and 65 strikeouts. Against left-handed pitchers he hit .291/.311/.372 with 2 walks and 18 strikeouts.
The thing that really jumps out is that he’s only drawn 5 total walks against left-handed pitching in 220 plate appearances. That is a rate that is going to have to improve if he’s going to get the most out of his hit tool. He’s also only hit one home run in his career off of left-handed pitchers.
Minor League Home Run Information
Out of his 14 career minor league home runs, four of them went 400+ feet. The longest that he hit was 415 feet. All of the homers that he hit over 400 feet came in 2019 when he was with the Daytona Tortugas.