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Will the real Avisail Garcia please stand up?

Garcia’s torrid start has been a breath of fresh air for White Sox fans, but it looks like a mirage.

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ever since he was acquired in the Jake Peavy trade, Avisail Garcia has been a disappointment to White Sox fans. Dubbed “Little Miggy” while in Detroit, Garcia was seen as a can’t-miss prospect by most and naturally invited a ton of excitement. In his first few years on the South Side, Garcia struggled to even maintain replacement-level value, which made the White Sox sour on the right fielder. While Garcia has exploded to start 2017, turning heads with a torrid start at the plate, it doesn’t look like it will last. Garcia essentially looks like the outfielder he was in previous seasons when you drill down far enough.

In previous years, Garcia was bad at just about everything, which is something you can expect from a guy who entered this season as a career -1.5 fWAR player. Garcia did it in a well-rounded way, too — he wasn’t really good at anything. At the plate, he was a 89 wRC+ player with a .304 wOBA, a 6.2 percent walk rate, and a 23.8 percent K rate. It’s kind of hard to justify that offensive production in a corner outfield spot. Only once did he provide positive value on the bases with a BsR of 0.3 in 2016; overall, his baserunning had been worth -6.3 runs. In the field, he was incredibly limited.

Baseball Savant

The balls hit to him last season show a clear barrier of what he’s able to handle in the outfield (cans of corn) and what he’s unable to handle (basically everything else).

A lot of what was bad about Garcia’s game still remains. His fielding is still pretty pathetic. It’s also hard to imagine a 6-foot-4, 240-pound man suddenly developing speed in his mid-20’s. However, he’s certainly been more valuable with the bat this year.

Over the first month, Garcia has been one of the better offensive players in the game. His 1.2 fWAR places him in the top 15 among position players. In addition to that, he slides into the top seven in both wOBA and wRC+ among qualified hitters. On the surface, he looks great.

Without even going too far into the numbers, though, it’s easy to see that Garcia’s profile is laden with a lack of sustainability. First off, his BABIP sits at an insane .464. The regression there alone is likely enough to sink his entire profile. Second, there hasn’t been much positive progression in his plate discipline. Entering the season, Garcia had a 6.2 percent walk rate and a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. Now, his BB rate (5.8 percent) has dropped by a fraction of a percentage point, and his K rate (22.1 percent) has dropped a bit over a percentage point. Finally, he put up a career 14.4 percent HR/FB rate prior to 2017, but this season has him up past 27 percent in that regard.

Garcia’s Statcast data corroborates the skepticism despite being somewhat more hopeful. In terms of exit velocity, Garcia’s exit velocity has seen a bump from about 88.5 mph to approximately 89 mph. In addition to that, he has gotten a bit more consistent lift on the ball, but he doesn’t hit regularly enough in at a solid angle.

Garcia in 2016
Baseball Savant
Garica in 2017
Baseball Savant

Garcia still has a bit of a low launch, but it’s not as extreme thus far. Still, the amount of batted balls create a sample size issue. It’s hard to trust 60 batted balls versus 300.

Garcia’s overall profile is hard to have a lot of faith in going forward. The massive improvements in offensive production can be explained away by his massive BABIP and accompanying outlier peripheral statistics. His batted ball data, even with slight improvements, doesn’t seem to provide enough lift to make up for the unsustainability and historical shortcomings.