Garcia sees White Sox playing in October
Young outfielder brimming with confidence for himself and team this spring
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Avisail Garcia has skills, the kind of skills that make almost anything possible on the baseball field.
The White Sox right fielder could potentially launch a pitch 415 feet over the center-field fence in one at-bat, only to beat out an infield single and then steal second in his next trip to the plate. He could finish off the evening with a tough catch in the right-center field gap or by throwing out a runner trying to go from first to third on a single.
Whether expert prognosticator is included in that list of positive traits for Garcia won't be known until later in October. At least that's the hope of the 22-year-old.
During a recent interview with MLB.com, Garcia talked about the White Sox getting to the World Series. That talk was focused on the upcoming 2014 season, in the midst of the reshaping process.
It wasn't exactly a prediction and certainly was far from a guarantee. It was more about the confidence exuded by Garcia concerning this younger and energetic team put together by general manager Rick Hahn.
"I believe we can do it. Yeah, this year. Why not?" said a smiling Garcia, but in a serious tone. "You never know. So let's see what happens."
There's little chance for the White Sox to be competitive, let alone a playoff team or World Series contender, without significant contributions from Garcia.
He was acquired from Detroit as part of a three-team deal last July 30 that sent right-handed hurler Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers. The White Sox also picked up Minor League pitchers Jeff Wendelken and Francelis Montas and shortstop Cleulius Rondon.
Garcia posted a .304 average in 42 games with the White Sox, knocking out five homers and driving in 21. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder has been overlooked slightly in the hoopla surrounding Jose Abreu's arrival, but figures to occupy the important second or third spot in the order.
"Media-wise, he's probably under the radar right now because, of course, Abreu has the contract this offseason," said White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. "I bet he isn't under the radar for the teams we are playing.
"They know his potential and what he's capable of. It's a matter of honing his skills. He knows his discipline at times can waver, and that's what he wants to focus more on -- swinging at better pitches so his talent can come out. That's the only way it can come out."
In 291 Major League at-bats, Garcia has drawn just 12 walks and struck out 69 times, backing up Steverson's notion of patience. He also has a .289 career average.
Ask Garcia a good spot for him to hit in the White Sox order, and he smiles and makes it clear that it really doesn't matter. Garcia even remembers batting leadoff while playing at the Triple-A level for the Tigers.
"I'm going to play hard wherever they are going to put me," Garcia said.
"As far as the physical tools, he's as talented as anyone out there," said White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn of his teammate. "He seems to be a pretty quick learner. He's going to be fun to watch because he can do a lot of things a lot of guys can't."
This learning curve was tested when Garcia moved from Lakeland of the Florida State League to Double-A Erie to the Tigers over the course of the 2012 season. The fun didn't stop with that September jump to the Majors, as Garcia became a part of the Tigers playoff roster, leading to seven at-bats in the Division Series against the A's, five hits in 11 at-bats against the Yankees in the ALCS and five more at-bats in the World Series, while putting together a .261 average with four RBIs overall.
Ty Cobb and Garcia are the only Tigers players 21-or-younger to record a postseason hit, after Garcia came through in Game 4 of the ALDS. Garcia became the first Tigers rookie with a postseason extra-base hit (double), RBI and stolen base in the same game, in Game 4 of the ALCS.
All of this was taking place for a young man who was adjusting to the playoff spotlight while the Venezuelan native was sharpening his English.
"I spoke a little English, but I learned English when I was there in the playoffs. They have a lot of interviews, so I learned fast," Garcia said. "I watched TV, movies. I read. I did a lot of practice. I watched interviews too, so I picked up something. I picked up little words that they say."
"That speaks volumes to the type of player they thought he was," Steverson said of Garcia's 2012 jump. "Lucky for us in that deal last year that we were able to acquire him and we have a young, power-hitting, strong-armed outfielder with some speed. He's a helluva piece in my opinion for our lineup."
When apprised of Garcia's World Series comments, Steverson asked "Why wouldn't you want to shoot for the best?" He added the key thing is for the players all to buy into the idea because they are the ones out there doing it every day.
If that happens, anything is possible. Just ask Garcia, who has developed his own version of 'You gotta believe.'
"You put something in your mind and you work for that, I think you come through," Garcia said.