Morning Report: What Sets Willy Garcia Apart From Other Prospects?

The focus of this article is finding a comparable player to Willy Garcia when it comes to his low walk rate and high strikeout totals. This season, Garcia had 24 walks and 145 strikeouts, which is a difference of 121, the biggest differential in the system. Last year, Garcia had a difference of 131 with 23 walks and 154 strikeouts. During these past two seasons, no one else in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system had a difference that reached triple figures. In 2012, Garcia had a 33:132 BB/K ratio, second worst in the system to Carlos Mesa, who had a 9:119 ratio and then no job this year in baseball.

Garcia is a toolsy player, but history isn't on his side. (Photo credit: David Hague)
Garcia is a toolsy player, but history isn’t on his side. (Photo credit: David Hague)

The main reason Garcia isn’t rated higher in the system is his inability to draw walks and his high strikeout rates, because he passes all the other prospect tests. If you look at his strong points, you’ll see a power hitter that has hit at least 16 homers in each of the last three years. Garcia just turned 22 years old last week, which is a strong age for someone in AA, so he has shown power at a young age for the level for three straight seasons. He also has the best arm in the system, as well as above average defense at either corner outfield spot. He made 13 errors this year, which is an unusually high number for an outfielder, but the defensive reports have been strong and I’ve personally seen him play well on defense in the past.

So you have a power hitter with plus defense and he has decent speed, which is at least average. All that and he has done it at a young age. With that in mind, we now we take a look at the past, searching for a success story in the Pirates system that includes someone with a horrible strikeout rate and no walks. Using that strikeout/walk difference as the focal point, here are the players that have put up at least 100 more strikeouts than walks and where they ended up.

In 2011, Quincy Latimore had a difference of 107 and he is a good comparison for Garcia, because he was a 22-year-old corner outfielder for Altoona that year. Latimore also hit 15 homers and 32 doubles, so that compares well to Garcia’s power numbers. Latimore just spent his fourth season at AA this year and was cut by the Pirates in Spring Training, but latched on with the Nationals.

In 2010, Latimore had a 106 difference and was one of four players in the system to do that. Two of the others haven’t been in the system for awhile, Calvin Anderson and Rogelio Noris. The other was Jarek Cunningham, who has stalled at AA. All four had something in common besides the BB/K ratios and that is their power potential.

In 2007-09, no one in the Pirates system had a triple-figure difference, but a player that was close might be familiar to Pirates fans. Brad Corley was a top prospect back when it didn’t take much to be a top prospect in the Pirates’ system. He also refused to take walks and struck out too much. When I say, refuse, I mean that literally in that Corley once said being aggressive got him where he was, which was AA at the time, and he wasn’t going to change his approach.

The difference between Corley and Garcia is that Corley didn’t strikeout as often, he just took less walks. In 2006, Corley wasn’t the worst offender, that honor belonged to Steve Lerud at 106 and he has played in the Majors. Sure it’s just nine games over two seasons(2012-13) with the Phillies, but it counts.

No one in 2005 reached the century mark, so we go to 2004 and find a power-hitter that reached the Majors. Brad Eldred hit 37 homers with a .301 average and a 41:148 BB/K ratio. Eldred was the only member of the 100 club in 2003 and no one came close in 2002. That year Humberto Cota led all hitters with 106 strikeouts, so it was by far the best year for BB/K rates that we have seen yet.

When you go back to 2001, you find the biggest difference since Rogelio Noris(129) in 2010. That person from 2001 would be the immortal Chad Hermansen. As a 23-year-old in AAA that year, he had 17 homers and 22 stolen bases and a 41:154 BB/K ratio.

In 2000, you have Jeremy Harts(115 difference) and another power-hitting prospect that didn’t work out, J.J. Davis. That year, he had 20 homers and 52 walks(171 strikeouts) as a 21-year-old in high-A ball. Davis made the Majors too, playing 67 games with a .465 OPS over four seasons.

In 1999, Corey Pointer and Jovanny Sosa combined for 37 homers and both barely reached the century club. I’m sure you remember both of them, right? If not, don’t worry, neither made the Majors. Pointer was the only rep in 1998, one of the worst differences ever at 124(fourth worst in franchise history). In 1997, Pointer was joined by outfielder Alex Hernandez, who briefly played with the Pirates so there is another example of a player at least making it, even if it was for a short time.

You need to go back to 1993 for another example and there were three, all players that never made the Majors, Shon Walker, Keith Thomas and Rico Gholston. Thomas was the worst at 111 difference. In 1992, Ramon Martinez(110) was the only player in this elite group and he never made the Majors. We also get to the point of players that played before Willy Garcia was born and the best Major League player we found was either Chad Hermansen or Brad Eldred. Also, no one matched the 131 difference Garcia had last year.

It’s not to say that Garcia has no chance of succeeding in the Majors, but over the last 22 years, you can’t find a player that was as bad as he was with the difference between walks and strikeouts. You also can’t find a successful Major League player that has come close, but you can find a lot of guys that never even made it to the show. Between 1966 and 1992, there were only three members of the 100 club and none of them made it to the big leagues.

If you have hope for Garcia, maybe this example from the 1965 season will help your case. Bob Oliver just barely made the cut with his 27:127 BB/K ratio in AA at age twenty-two. He ended up playing eight years in the Majors and put up a .696 OPS in 847 games, with most of his time coming with the expansion Kansas City Royals in their first three seasons. The flip side is that Oliver had just one minor league season that qualified and like I said, just barely.

That’s right, you only have to go back 50 seasons to find one example of a player that had a decent MLB career while not walking enough and striking out too much. Like I said, Garcia has the tools to be a strong player for the Pirates, but there aren’t any good examples to point at to back up his case. If he goes on have success in the Majors, he will be used as an example in the future as THE player that made an impact while showing poor plate patience and bad contact skills.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 4.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and 1.5 games ahead of both Atlanta and Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are three games behind San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates won on Monday night, picking up a game on both the Braves and Brewers. Edinson Volquez will take the mound for his 28th start of the season tonight in Philadelphia. He pitched against the Phillies on July 5th, giving up one run on four hits and four walks over seven innings. In his last start, Volquez threw 6.1 scoreless innings. The minor league season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs. They lost their series Wednesday night. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.

MLB: Pittsburgh (75-68) @ Philadelphia (66-77) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Edinson Volquez (3.31 ERA, 114:60 K/BB, 165.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of lefty reliever Jesus Paredes, who threw 21 innings this year with 20 strikeouts and a .211 BAA, but he also issued 15 walks. He spent one year in the VSL, before moving to the DSL for the 2012-13 seasons. The 21-year-old has thrown just 101 innings over his four-year career.

Recent Transactions

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the second baseman for the first World Series champs in franchise history. As a rookie in 1909, John “Dots” Miller got to the Pirates Spring Training camp before Honus Wagner and impressed the Pirates management so much that once Wagner arrived, Miller was moved from shortstop to second base and it moved Ed Abbaticchio to the bench. The Pirates had paid a high price for Abbaticchio just two years earlier, but the star infielder was replaced by the rookie infielder. Miller would go on to play five years with the Pirates before being dealt away in an unpopular trade in December of 1913. You can read a full bio of Miller here.

Among the seven other Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date is Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt, who pitched for the Pirates from 1933 until 1937. You can read his bio here, as well as six other players and also Frankie Frisch, a Hall of Fame second baseman that managed the Pirates from 1940 until 1946. There is also a game recap from 1987 that included a very unlikely home run that helped the Pirates defeat the Cubs.

  • Monsoon Harvard
    September 9, 2014 11:55 am

    I got hope for Willy because he’s Wily like a coyote. But seriously, I’m hoping he’s a Jose Bautista, power monster, late-bloomer type.

    • Unfortunately, late bloomers who are in the Pirate organization often bloom for another team…

  • Other than the strikeout issues, how does Garcia compare/contrast with Harold Ramriez – in terms of speed, arm, bat, etc?

    • Garcia is slower, about the same on defense, but the arm is much better. Ramirez hits for average, but really hasn’t added power yet. He does have some walk issues, but nowhere near Garcia and he won’t strikeout as much

      • The arm is quite awesome. He gunned a guy out at home plate by 10 feet from fairly deep RF in spring training, and in the same game almost did the same with a guy moving from 2nd to 3rd on a pop out. I love seeing that %&$^

        • I should have noted that Ramirez doesn’t have a bad arm because anyone that doesn’t know how well Garcia throws would think that Ramirez can’t throw by what I said. He can throw, it’s just an average arm from what I saw this year

  • John, this is great analysis! However, I am wondering what would happen if you’d expand the search beyond the Pirates organization. I am thinking, specifically, about a player that is a top 10-20 MLB prospect who just recently made his major league debut and who struck out 3 times against the Pirates a couple of nights ago…and seemingly struck out every at bat during the whole series: JAVIER BAEZ. Yes, Baez is a little younger (he was 20 last year in A+-AA) but he struck out 147 times with 40 BB…and then this year at 21 he struck out 130 times in AAA with 34 walks and has come up to the majors and has 140 ABs and has struck out 62 times with only 8 walks (so basically 42 walks and 192Ks in 2014).

    Please note I am not trying to completely compare prospect profiles since Baez still put up an OPS of .920 last year and .883 this year at a younger age than Garcia. I am pointing out, however, a player with gaudy strike-out numbers and extremely low walk numbers who not only is playing in MLB but is a top prospect in the whole game.

    And I mention this only because I am wondering, then, if there would be some trade value in Garcia. He’s not Baez…but he does have value it would seem.

    • I think the example of Baez is a great one because it shows a much better prospect that is having a horrible time in the Majors, with better minor league walk numbers, but still has that 100 difference. Thank you for that. If I expanded this beyond the Pirates, I’d be writing this article in December with all the time it took to go through numbers. I think 150-200 players a year over a 65 year time span is a pretty big sample size(I looked back before 1950 as well, but the numbers starting getting spotty and guys back then cared a lot more about not striking out, so they didn’t blindly hack away like players today)

      • Haha. Yes, I do not mean that you should do or should have done that much research. I was more just thinking out loud about what the results would be if we did.

        I also am wondering IF you would say that looking at Garcia gives you a better appreciation for Stetson Allie. Allie has less experience and was really aggressively promoted and had a better season in AA this year than he had last year (bb/k ratio at least). I am extremely impressed with what I saw from Allie and seeing the write-up about Garcia even makes me more impressed with what Allie did with less overall experience.

        • I appreciate the Baez comparison, shows that a top prospect with bad BB/K is looking horrible in his first taste of the Majors. I have Allie rated higher than Garcia, definitely and his plate patience is the key reason because there is a huge difference in their defensive value, but not much in their power potential

          • Not a problem for the Baez comparison. Just seemed to fit quite well…plus it was an easily available comparison since we just saw Baez strike out 10 times in 3 games (he did walk 2 times…yippee!) against us.

            And, yes, I completely agree that Allie has to be rated higher than Garcia. I more meant that even with Allie’s higher rating taken into account it just seems to me that Allie’s numbers are made even more impressive by the fact that he has 1037 career at bats and Garcia has almost 1700. Garcia had 908 ABs in full-time A-Ball (Sal League and FSL) coming into this year in AA…Allie had 480. The fact that Allie could go to AA after only 480 ABs in A-Ball and 630 ABs total in his career and put up the number he put up against the competition that he put it up against in comparison to players who have much more experience…I think it really does provide some hope for improvements and even better results in the future.

    • Another prospect everyone has been raving about with similar SO problems, but who does walk more than Baez or Garcia, is Joey Gallo. I myself can’t help but think that young guys striking out at rates well North of 30 and 40 % in AAA, as are Baez, Soler and Kris Bryant’s case, or especially at 40 % in AA like Gallo, can’t help but be overwhelmed with MLB pitching. They look very similar to me as Brad Eldred type hitters, not even an Adam Dunn.

      • Well, I think the issue with Baez is that he’s not a 3-true-outcomes guy at all or, if he was, I think he would be fine. He’s a strikeout machine with a ton of power but no other great quality (with the bat). His career minor league batting average is .278, so its not like he hits for an amazing average (although even .278 is great for a normal SS). His career OBP is .336…30-points lower than Stetson Allie! The other thing that is, inevitably I think, going to happen is that he’s going to shift from SS to another IF position (2B or 3B). Regardless, the issue I have with Baez is that he isn’t readily comparable to any of the top strike-out guys that immediately come to mind. He walks about 1/3rd as much as Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard. The best comparison for Baez? Despite ALL the hype surrounding him…Baez is Ian Desmond. He’ll hit homers and he’ll strike out and have a career .730-.740 OPS.

        I see the opposite with Kris Bryant. Bryant, I truly believe, can be a good power-hitter in the 3-true-outcome variety. Adam Dunn might K 170-180 times per year, but he’ll walk 100-120 times per year. He has a career .365 OBP. I think this is where Kris Bryant will end up. He’s going to be a guy who is going to strike out a lot, but he’s going to draw walks and he’s going to hit home runs. The one saving grace for Bryant is that in the minors so far he’s put up a good batting average. If he can carry that forward he could end up being even better than a 3-true-outcome.

        Joey Gallo is in the 3-true-outcomes variety as well…and I think that is where he’ll stay. He struggled to hit for a decent average in AA. 64 of his 119 hits were extra-base hits…and he struck out 179 times and walked 84 in 439 ABs. It’s nice that he has hit 40HRs each year and all…but how is he really any better as a prospect than Stetson Allie? You cannot count age against Allie as Allie STILL has fewer minor league ABs than does Gallo but had a better average, better OBP, and better k/bb ratio than Gallo in a tougher AA league for hitters. Woohoo…Gallo had a better SLG %…so did Brandon Wood and where did that get Wood?

        It continues to amaze me how much some prospects get overhyped, especially out west in hitter friendly leagues. Gallo 429 career strikeouts in 1056 career ABs. He only has 278 career hits! Adam Dunn strikes out 1.45 times for every hit that he gets…Gallo strikes out 1.54 in the minors! In the minors Adam Dunn had more hits than Ks.

        • I totally agree with you Jared.I also think Bryant has a better chance than others mentioned,though I think even for him,that 30 % SO rate in MiLB is going to be somewhat of a barrier to success at the MLB level. I will tell you though, it wasn’t too long ago I was more or less laughed at for bringing Garcia and Allies’ names up in the same paragraph with Gallo’s.

          • Bryant will, I think, turn out to be a good major leaguer. I loved him in the draft and still think he’ll be good. Gallo? Baez? I am not in love with either of them…and I see no real difference between Gallo and someone like Dallas McPherson. Honestly, what Allie did in the Eastern league (especially since he had so little experience as a hitter) is much more impressive to me than what Gallo did in the Texas league which is essentially Bradenton.

            • I watched Allie at home all season, and he ran into a wall after he had hit about 10 HRs. I watched him struggle then for a while, just to see how he would handle the failures. Believe me, he did really well, a lot of lesser players don’t always rebound at all, let alone the way he did. And, he does have some serious power in his bat.

              • One thing I’ve noticed, and hopefully you can add some insight, is that every time I see new video of Allie his swing is slightly different. I personally believe that’s because he’s constantly working to find and refine a swing he’s comfortable using, considering he’s still relatively raw in terms of minor league at-bats. But there’s always the chance he just struggles to maintain consistency.

                Any thoughts?

                • NMR, I thought that might have been part of his problem when he hit the dry spell after getting # 10. But once he broke out of that he seemed to be more consistent. He also never seemed to me to have a loop or hitch, but does have a little more hand movement than the really good hitters. But to be honest, I have a little problem watching a prospect live and determining how quickly they might be opening up etc. I need to watch the video slowed down ! Getting old I guess.

                  • Thanks, leo!

                    I know exactly what you mean. A guy has to have an Ike Davis-like hitch in order for me to really pick up on it in person.

                    I’ve always based a good bit of my hope in Allie off the fact that his swing is so damn simple, yet he manages to general so much power. So many guys cheat their mechanics toward generating bat speed that it sacrifices contact. Allie isn’t one of them.

                    Let’s hope he settles into something that works.

                    • Sorry I wasn’t of more help. But you are right, he does not have a lot of issues with his swing. To me, the hands and balance are the easiest subjects to look for in a swing, and also the most important. Watch A., Joey Gallo’s, and B., Bubba Starling’s pre 2014 videos for examples of flawed swings. BJ Upton is another guy. Truly, I don’t know how he has ever had any success at that level ! As or Davis, dropping his hands when he does is a real issue, because you never can raise the, as fast as you can drop them.

                    • No apology necessary, buddy. I appreciate honest answers.

                      I couldn’t agree more with you about the hands and balance. I look at the size and position of the load(no more than just outside the shoulder and directed back, not up or down) and for a locked front leg at contact. Fairly easy to spot and important checkpoints in the swing.

                    • You are on it buddy. I am waiting to watch some of the Nats/Braves. I hate rooting for the Nats, but we have to !

    • Here is look at strikeout and walk rates across all AA prospect.

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/12/16/5212234/minor-league-prospects-double-a-walk-strikeout-rates-success

      The author has Baez at a 100% bust rate based on his AA stats, but noted in high A post that Baez has highly rated tools and his BB% was improving as he moved up. The more general point is what John said below, the success rates are much better when high strikeout guys couple that with high walk rates.

      • Yes, this is exactly right. Except even with the “bb% improving as he moved up” he still ends up striking out almost 4-times as much as he walks. Tools or no tools…it will be very, very hard for Baez NOT to bust if he cannot figure out a way to either strike-out less or walk more. Gregory Polanco is a very, very similar age to Baez. The difference? In 140 ML ABs this year Baez has k’d 62 times and walked 8. Polanco? In 253 ABs has K’d 52 times and walked 28. I will take Polanco all day! (Not that we were debating who we would take just comparing the two).

  • Wow, that is a staggering analysis. Thanks for a ton of research and a great article. Methinks Willy would be a great trade chip in any offseason deals but don’t let other General Managers see this writeup!

    Sadly I recognized every prospect mentioned in Garcia’s lifetime and I had hopes for each and every one of them at some time. Eldred definitely came the closest. Hermanson the biggest disappointment.

    • This is something I wanted to do for awhile and had a lot of free time yesterday so I was able to go back through all the data. I knew it was bad, I didn’t have a clue it was this bad though.

  • Do you think Willy reads Pirates Prospects? Maybe you could mail him a copy of your article?

  • For the life of me I have never been able to figure out what why Steve Lerud ever got to play in MLB. He not only wasn’t a good hitter, after Ryan Doumit, he was the worst defensive catcher I have seen come through the system in the past 16 seasons.

    • In 2012, Lerud was called up after starter Carlos Ruiz and backup Brian Schneider were both placed on the disabled list. The Phillies said at the time that they didn’t want their two prospects in the upper levels to sit on the bench in the Majors barely playing. In 2013, both Ruiz and Erik Kratz were on the DL a the same time, forcing the Phillies to bring up Lerud again to back up Humberto Quintero. So both times Lerud came up, he was their fourth option at catcher and barely played

      • Thanks John, but I remember the circumstances of Lerud’s callup, But the fact that he even got THAT close still surprised the hell out of me. I am chuckling to myself while typing actually. All of this Bucs catching prospect talk reminded me of Ryan Doumit hitting John Grabow with an attempted throw to 2nd base. I will never forget the look on Doumit’s face….. 😞

  • Yep….I don’t have much hope for Willy G. I hope he succeeds, but………unless that plate discipline light goes on, he is toast.

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