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How do you solve a problem like Avisail Garcia?

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Avisail Garcia has had a poor start to his career. Is there any hope for this erstwhile top prospect?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No, that's not the death rattle of Avisail Garcia's career, that's just him packing his bags for another spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. You can be forgiven the mistake though. Last season, Garcia was firmly below replacement level, costing his team more than a win according to fWAR. It was his first full season, but it wasn't Garcia's introduction to futility. Garcia lost his rookie eligibility in 2013 and has posted a negative fWAR every season since, culminating in a -1.1 fWAR season last year. Despite obvious physical tools, former top-prospect status, and elite-player comparisons, Garcia has been a bust. This is not the first time this has happened. Don't alert the internet.

Since 1988, more than a few players put up three consecutive seasons of sub-replacement level baseball. The list is lousy with catchers, the most infamous of which is Gary Bennett, who went SEVEN (what?!?) straight seasons as a below-replacement level player (fWAR). Bennett was a backup catcher who divided those seven consecutive years across as many teams. With a lifetime wRC+ of 61 you might expect him to be a stalwart defensive catcher, but you'd be wrong. By FRAA, Bennett was among the worst catchers in the league each of those seven seasons, though he did post the fourth-highest fielding percentage among National League catchers in 2003.

But Avisail Garcia is not an anonymous backup catcher, he's a former top-100 prospect whose career has stalled upon joining the majors. Fortunately for us, there are other more accurate comparables to Avisail Garcia. Unfortunately for him, they're Jose Guillen and Delmon Young.

Jose Guillen was signed as an amateur free out of the Dominican Republic in 1993 and joined the Pirates to start the 1997 season as their regular right fielder. The season was a disaster. Guillen was below average at the plate (82 wRC+) and by all accounts pretty awful in the field despite what one YouTube video title describes as a mutant arm. When it was all said and done, Guillen accrued -3.1 fWAR and was the worst player in baseball.

Perhaps Guillen's defense was misrepresented by a single season of primitive defensive metrics, or maybe the jump from single-A took its toll, but Guillen's defense never graded out so poorly again, not even in the Royals outfield in the late aughts. His bat, however, stagnated and then regressed. In 1998 Guillen posted a wRC+ of 83 and an fWAR of -0.4. His third season started off as a mess for the Pirates, who shipped him to the Devil Rays. Guillen was evidently not a player who just needed a change of scenery, and he finished the season with 86 games in the bank and a balance of -1.8 fWAR.

Garcia hasn't been as bad as Guillen to start his career, but the two have quite a bit in common, particularly on defense. They both debuted at the age of 21 and, like Guillen, Garcia has been one of the worst defenders in the league. Garcia also has a mutant arm, showing up as one of only 15 outfielders to break the 100 MPH plateau on a throw. Neither Garcia nor Guillen would be confused for a particularly fast player, but they aren't statues in the outfield as both had only slightly below average speed scores for a right fielder over their first seasons.

Inside Edge fielding data supports the notion that, for Garcia, range doesn't appear to be the problem. Since his first callup in 2012, Garcia has made roughly the same number of Remote plays (5.6%) as league average (5.3%) for right fielders, though a sample of 18 such plays hardly makes an the argument iron-clad. Guillen's defense improved in 2001 to the point that he was somewhere between league average and slightly below league average between the ages of 24 and 30. This isn't exactly SOP for right fielders, whose defense seems to peak at 24. Entering his own age-24 season, there seems to be room for Garcia to grow into a league-average right fielder on defense.

Garcia has been moderately better than Guillen at the plate to start his career. While he too has been a below average contributor on offense, particularly for a corner outfielder, Garcia's chief problem is his tendency to swing at pitches outside the zone. Last season, Garcia was third-worst in the league for this measure (O-Swing rate of 46.6%), trailing only Pablo Sandoval and Adam Jones. The problem here is that while Sandoval and Jones can make contact outside the zone, Garcia cannot. So much so that he had the league's highest swinging strike percentage last season (17.3%).

As a hitter, Garcia's first seasons are comparable to Delmon Young, which hasn't been a compliment since 2006. Young's Achilles' heel was also plate discipline and an inability to hit pitches outside the zone. After a stellar debut with the Devil Rays in 2006, Young was awful, posting three sub-replacement level seasons that got successively worse. Young's wRC+ from 2007-2009 was similar to Garcia's career, but with a bit less power and a bit more BABIP. Young emerged in his fourth full season, posting 1.7 fWAR on the back of a solid offensive season where he swung at a career low percentage of balls outside the zone (37.0%).

So how do you solve a problem like Garcia? Well, for starters, he needs to start making the more routine plays in the field. Remember how he made about the league average of Remote plays? Well he doesn't fare so well on the batted balls he should have a higher probability for fielding. Garcia had the lowest conversion percentage of Almost Certain/Certain plays for a right fielder with more than 200 chances (97.8%) last season. He also had the lowest conversion rate of Likely plays (50%) of any player with more than 5 such chances. On defense, just making the routine plays could turn Garcia into something like league average in right field, like Jose Guillen was at his age.

On offense, Garcia can improve by taking a more selective approach. Even with his tendency to chase balls out of the zone, Garcia is still just below league average in walk (5.6%) and strikeout rates (23.1%) for his career. By cutting down on his O-Swing%, Garcia can improve both these rates and force pitchers into the zone for pitches other than the first one he sees. Last season, pitchers pounded the zone early, delivering a first strike 65.5 percent of the time, about 5 percentage points more than the average hitter. After that, they stayed outside the zone more often than not, with 42 percent of pitches in the zone, more than three percentage points less than league average and 19th lowest among qualified hitters.

If Garcia can make these two adjustments, the White Sox could have a reliable right fielder for his last four seasons under team control. If he can't build himself up into a replacement level player, well, he could always don the tools of ignorance and make a run at Gary Bennett's modern record for futility.

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Matt Jackson is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score and a staff writer for Royals Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @jacksontaigu.