White Sox see Avisail Garcia as a big guy with gigantic upside
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter March 9, 2014 10:39PM
Updated: March 9, 2014 10:55PM
PHOENIX — White Sox coach Daryl Boston got an eyeful of Avisail Garcia when the budding star joined the team for 42 games last season, and like everyone else with 20/20 baseball vision, he loved what he saw.
Boston was really looking forward to seeing Garcia, though, in spring training.
“During the season we just let him play to see what we had,’’ said Boston, the first-base coach who works closely with outfielders. “When you get him here one-on-one, in drills, and see him really working hard on stuff you get to see the potential he has. We like the way he goes about his business.
“We need him to have a big year offensively but some of the stuff he adds in the outfield — he’s constantly aware of positioning, where he is — you get an idea of what he’s about and what he can do.’’
You get the idea general manager Rick Hahn high-fived his staff when the Sox, whose season had blown up on them, were able to unload Jake Peavy’s salary in a three-team deal at the trade deadline that reeled in the 22-year-old right fielder from the Detroit Tigers. Here was a raw talent in a big body with a big future fitting perfectly in Hahn’s plan to build a young core aimed at sustainable success. The trade, which also brought a couple of pitching prospects, came together late, and it made all three teams happy. The Red Sox got Peavy for their pennant push and the Tigers got slick-fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias.
When first baseman Jose Abreu signed in the offseason, Hahn had two big rebuilding blocks in place. While the jury will be out on Abreu, 27, until after he sees a steady diet of major-league pitching for at least a half season, we’ve seen enough of Garcia to know that he’s got the goods.
“There isn’t a whole lot he can’t do on the baseball field, I can tell you that,’’ Boston said. “He has plus power to all fields, he has above-average speed for a big man, and an above-average throwing arm. It’s just a matter of him getting consistent at-bats. Everybody in the organization believes he has a chance to be an All-Star for a long time.’’
Abreu is big at 6-3, 245 but Garcia, even standing alongside Abreu at 6-4, 240 strikes more “just look at that guy” reactions with an imposing baseball frame.
“He’s big and strong, but you don’t notice how fast he is just running the bases,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a big kid who could play center field. At-bat wise, he’s not just swinging as hard as he can. He can hit for average and there’s not that many people who are that big and can control that and still be able to have the kind of power he has. He’s a unique individual.’’
What’s more, Garcia doesn’t play like a prima donna. He runs hard on ground outs, even the routine ones.
“Yes, for a young kid , you like the energy he provides,’’ Boston said. “That’s one of the things we’re looking for. He plays the game hard. It remains to be seen what he can do till the games are played but the potential there is tremendous.’’
This year, Garcia has a greater comfort level in the clubhouse, which he says is now like a home, and in the city of Chicago.
“That’s very important for a baseball player,’’ he said.
In Detroit, he was a kid surrounded by stars. Here, he’s a guy the Sox the view as a centerpiece. The expectations, taken in stride, add no pressure, Garcia said.
“No. I know my game,’’ he said. “God gives you ability, so you have to work to get the most out of it and see what happens.’’