Nick Garcia was an intriguing pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the 2020 draft. He attended a Division III college in Chapman, originally as a position player. That was before becoming the team’s closer during their World Series run, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player.
Entering his draft year, he made the jump to the rotation, but COVID shut down the season early.
The Pirates drafted him in the third round, signed him to an over slot deal, and sent him to Bradenton for the 2021 season. After easing his way into professional ball, he switched into the rotation where he finished out the season.
Going into 2022, he made his first two appearances out of the bullpen, piggybacking behind Santiago Florez, but made the next 23 as a starter.
Garcia had one of the best seasons of any starter in the system, even finishing second in Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Year voting behind Quinn Priester.
What made that even more impressive is that this was really his first full season as a starter. He didn’t make the move full-time in Bradenton until halfway through the season, and his 2020 junior season at Chapman was cut short.
When looking at what went right for Garcia this past year, as well what his approach on the mound was like while pitching in Greensboro.
“A lot of it’s been just like going out there and competing every day,” Garcia told Pirates Prospects. “And being consistent within. That’s just been the biggest emphasis for me is that trusting my stuff, once I get on the mound, just competing for six innings every time, and putting a quality start out there.”
Garcia isn’t the biggest strikeout pitcher when on the mound, averaging less than one per inning this past year (109 in 113 IP). His strikeout rate (23.3%) was slightly below average in the minors in 2022 (minor league strikeout rate for all full season affiliates was 24.62%), but that’s not a concern for him, as long as he gives his team the best chance of winning.
There’s going to be plenty of growing pains for a player pitching as much as he did for the first time, and Garcia acknowledged that.
“There’s been ups and downs with it. But it’s been something that’s my goal,” Garcia continued. “And I feel like, it’s been the first time that I truly feel like a real starting pitcher, and I can get my team a chances to win every time I go out there”
While pitching, Garcia features a fastball, curveball and changeup. He attacks the top of the zone with the fastball, and lets the other pitches work off of that.
The video above gives a quick look at that mix in action, from Garcia’s July 13th start against Brooklyn — where he struck out a season high nine batters in six innings pitched. Striking out the side in the first inning, you can see him establish the fastball up, before working in his curveball off that pitch later on.
As far as what’s ahead for Garcia, he said his biggest focus in the offseason is to not only stay healthy but also adding another weapon to the arsenal, a cutter or slider.
“That’ll be the big emphasis and focus going into next year, just to give me another tool to combat a lineup two, three times through,” said Garcia. “So that’ll be the biggest new addition that will take place.”
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.