Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Adolis Garcia - Outfielder
Signed as a free agent in February of 2017
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This is the story of a prospect that we have been calling "JAG" since the beginning of his time in the organization. However, from here on I will begrudgingly call him "Adolis Garcia" out of respect for Major League continuity.
I kid, I kid. I'll be calling him JAG forever. Until he says that he doesn't like it, that is.
On a personal note, in an effort to be transparent to you, the audience, about these rankings, I want to give you a little introspective about my personal thoughts about JAG instead of just the scouting report on him.
The deal is, JAG had a terrible 2018 that was saved by a 41 game stretch between June 16th and August 5th in which he hit .344 with an OPS of 1.078. During that time, he had 27 extra base hits in 158 appearances, and he struck out an acceptable 16.6% of the time. However, in typical JAG-fashion, he only walked three times in those 158 plate appearances.
Internally, I have a soft spot for JAG. He's built like the Greek God Adonis, which isn't to be confused with his brother and former major leaguer Adonis Garcia. No, instead, what I'm trying to say, and have been saying since day one, is that JAG is chiseled out of marble. He has as good of body as you'd see in any body-competition, if such a thing exists (I think it does?). He's fit and strong and fast and powerful and a hunk, if we are being honest with ourselves. I love the guy.
As I continue to work through what I personally think of him in this article, I also have to tell you that I almost dropped him WAY down the list. At one point, I had him outside of the top 25. At another point, I had him outside of the top 30. Because of how much of an emphasis on the ability to make a major league debut I put into these rankings, that's hard (and unexpected of me) to do with a player that has already made a major league debut . He was just so bad during his other 76 minor league games.
During those other 76 minor league games, JAG struck out 24.4% of the time while walking only 2.7% of the time. In 254 at-bats, Garcia hit a disappointing 205/234/370. These stats were not caused by bad luck.
For all of you Cardinals fans from the 90's, bad JAG is equal to bad Ron Gant. Tell me that this doesn't remind you of Ron Gant:
Now that we are at the intersection of my internal monologue and the hard-stats and scouting, part of the reason why I almost dropped JAG further down the list was because he couldn't hit a breaking ball during his first 57 games of the AAA season. Early in a count or late in a count. High or low. Inside or outside. It didn't matter. Adolis just couldn't hit them. I'd be willing to bet that JAG would have struggled to hit a breaking pitch even if the catcher would have told him that it was coming. It was a swinging-S*** show, and it got so bad that he couldn't even really hit fastballs during this time, either. I can't emphasize loudly enough how catastrophically bad JAG was during those games. He'd still run into a home run during this time period (like he does in the .gif below), but it was more luck and strength generated than skill-generated.
Even in the field, this right-fielder with the strongest outfield arm in the organization (and well above-average in every aspect of out-fielding) and a flare for the dramatic catch struggled. It was so discouraging, especially after the spring training that he had with the big club. He was one of the last cuts, and it seemed like he was going to be on the major roster until the very last moments of camp. It was like he blew his entire load right there in Jupiter. (His arm never slumped, though. There was a throw or two that was off mark or short, but that thing is always good. It's so fun to watch).
Before we get too far here, Let me show you the arm on this guy. It's so damn strong and pretty damn accurate. Flat-footed? Strong and accurate. Crow-hopping? Strong and accurate. Snapping the ball like a long snapper? WHO IN THE HELL KNOWS AND WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?! Anyway, this is what it looks like, and you should watch these two .gif's from the same play over and over again:
So, what changed for him during those 41 games between June 16 and August 5th? First, it seemed like JAG changed his lead foot timing mechanism. It went from a "pick up then put down" mechanic to a "ankle lift and twist" mechanic. I think that really help him stay balanced in his swing. Then, for a while (so far as I could tell), JAG just stopped swinging at breaking pitches all together. It was as if he just decided "nahhhhhh, no thanks. Only fastballs for me!!" And that's the thing about the minor leagues, even at the highest level: a hitter can actually get away with something like that. This allowed JAG to reset a bit and take advantage of breaking pitches that he absolutely knew were coming, like this one on July 27th. He was sitting on this pitch:
The home run in that .gif illustrates one of my favorite things about JAG, and that's the fun and passion that he plays the game with. He really seems to enjoy playing the game and it comes through in his style. While some might hate a player for raising his hands following a second inning home run, I'll take that PURE excitement any day of the week.
JAG was added to the Cardinals' 25-man roster for about a week between August 6th and the 13th. He got a small taste of major league pitching during this first call-up, and it wasn't encouraging at all. During this first sip, he struck out five times in eleven at-bats and looked over-matched constantly. This happens often with players that make a major league debut, so it wasn't really worth getting worked up over. Plus, there were some questions about his usage by Cardinals' manager Mike Shildt during this period. That feeds into my "don't read too much into how he performed in this small sample" evaluation.
Anyway, what was really concerning was that JAG appeared to completely cool off once he was sent back down to Memphis. In 56 Memphis plate appearances in August (before being recalled to the majors on August 29th), JAG struck out 16 times and didn't walk once. He hit an abysmal 179/179/304 during this period. He did this while swinging and missing, or making weak contact, with a lot of breaking pitches.
It was another small sample that we probably shouldn't get too worked up about, but it really sucked to see him struggle. It would have been nice to see Garcia get a few more at-bats with the big league club down the September stretch run, but he was mostly relegated to pinch-running duties.
One thing that I have yet to address with JAG is his base-running. When you see a player as fast and quick as JAG, and you see how physically gifted and athletic he, you'd think that he'd be a bear on the base paths. That's true, for the most part. However, sometimes he gets caught on an island while running the bases. He can motor, but he might not be the best at knowing when to give it gas and when to back off. He's stolen 25 of 37 bases over two season in the minors, but I view him as more of a hit and run candidate than I do a base-stealing threat. Mr. Garcia might be best known for slipping while rounding third during a game that the Cardinals were down 2-1 against the Brewers on September 26th. Like with Kolten Wong getting picked of at first before him, I'd ask that you please forget about this play when you levy your own personal evaluation of him.
I want to end this on a very bright note because of how much I love JAG, and how jealous of his manliness that I am. There is one thing that JAG does extremely well that gives him immediate value to a major league team: JAG rakes against left-handed pitching. As a matter of fact, he can even hit their breaking pitches as well as he can hit their fastballs. In 91 plate appearances during the 2018 season, JAG hit 310/333/524 with five home runs and three doubles, and while striking out a productively-acceptable 17.6% of the time. It's just a matter of if he'll ever figure out righties.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With a mess of outfielders and utility infielders potentially capable of playing the outfield on the Cardinals' current 40-man roster, JAG could possibly be the odd-man-out for the long haul. However, with a repeat of his 2018 spring training performance, he could find his way back to the top of that list. JAG has tremendous athleticism and big power potential that is crippled by a bad approach verses breaking pitches of all shapes and sizes from righties. What will keep him afloat as a prospect, even at an advanced age to be called a prospect, is his supremely talented outfield arm and his ability to hit lefties.
MAY 1st UPDATE
JAG seems to be all about the power right now. It's either feast or famine right now, and he's eating the entire buffet when he's feasting. His strikeout rate of 34% is a helluva famine, as well. Right now, it appears that the 26-year-old is THIS, but I still have hope that there's a more patient hitter inside of there, somewhere.
Thank you to FanGraphs for being our one-stop shop for stats.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis