There’s a lot to keep track of during a rebuild. Highly-drafted youngsters progress, talented veterans are assessed as trade chips or longterm solutions, future window-fitting free agents are eyed, etc. Naturally, it’s easy to pay attention to guys like Yoán Moncada and Dylan Cease. Their age, pedigree and skillset demand your attention. It’s a little different for a 28-year old utility-man who was never much of a prospect himself.
Plainly put, there’s nothing special about Leury Garcia. He doesn’t care though, he’s going to get the job done anyway.
Acquired in 2013 via a trade with the Texas Rangers (in exchange for White Sox legend, Alex Rios), Garcia was moved despite steadily progressing through the Rangers’ system. With two top-tier middle infield prospects ahead of him in the pecking order (Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar), the Santiago, Dominican Republic native was seen as expendable.
From 2013 to 2016, Garcia ping-ponged between Charlotte and Chicago, not seeing his first major league season with 160+ at-bats until 2017. It was then that Garcia proved he could stick at the highest level, posting a respectable .739 OPS. Meanwhile, 2018 proved to be a trying year as a balky left hamstring sapped an already-limited power supply, resulting in a .376 SLG — well below the league average of .409. Still, when you have the ability to play six different positions in a single season, people can look past a lack of pop.
That versatility is one of the many reasons why Leury Garcia has been the unsung hero of the White Sox’ 2019 season.
Time and time again, Garcia has stepped into roles and thrived. He opened the year as the Sox’ starting centerfielder and quietly morphed into one of the better defenders in the league. In fact, Garcia leads ALL of major league baseball in outfield assists. He’s ahead of defensive wizards like Ramón Laureano (who does things like this), Jackie Bradley Jr., Cody Bellinger, etc. Garcia can cover some ground, too. Baseball Savant has him in the 97th percentile when it comes to Outfielder Jump.
At the same time, it’s easy to forget that Garcia was groomed as a shortstop on his way to the majors. Tim Anderson’s ankle injury was a devastating blow for the White Sox, but Rick Renteria had a man to turn to once TA was placed on the injured list. In the 12 games that Leury has seen action at SS, he’s committed just a pair of errors and has helped turn seven double plays. Not bad for the MLB leader in outfield assists.
It’s not just the defensive value he provides, either. Being that Jon Jay was the presumed leadoff man when signed last offseason, Leury willingly stepped into that role when called upon — and he has done well in the process. After seeing just 17 plate appearances as the leadoff hitter in 2018, he’s now sporting a .297/.330/.402 slash line when at the top of the order in 2019. Oh, and he’s added on eight steals for good measure.
Still not convinced that he’s done much with the bat? Well, if there’s still a place in your 2019 baseball heart for singles, Garcia has racked up 70 of ’em, good enough for fifth-best in the game, and tied with players like Ronald Acuña Jr., Jorge Polanco and Jeff McNeil.
Not bad company, even if we’re talking singles.
It’s even impressive to consider some of his offensive ranks within his own team. After all, this isn’t your usual White Sox lineup when you consider the firepower of Moncada, Anderson, Jose Abreu, James McCann and Eloy Jimenez:
- Runs: 1st
- Stolen Bases: 2nd
- Hits: 3rd
- Doubles: 3rd
- Batting Average: 4th
- OBP: 4th
- Total Bases: 4th
Leury Garcia is never going to find himself at the top of an exit velocity leaderboard, and he won’t garner enough recognition for a Gold Glove, but he’s a key cog on an up-and-coming team. He’s a player who will work quietly, fill multiple roles and — most importantly for baseball’s sake — be consistent while doing it. Intangibles is a fun baseball buzz word, but he’s got plenty of them.
It’s about time we start respecting the job he has done this season, and consider what he might be able to do for us in the future. Arbitration eligible in 2020, Garcia has proven that he could be an above-average fourth outfielder on a championship-contending White Sox team once all is said and done.
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Featured Image: USA Today Sports