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Adolis García is an unlikely breakout

The NRI is Texas’s best hitter so far.

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

If you go to Baseball Savant and look at the Barrels per plate appearance leaders there are few surprises at the top. Reading through the names of the top 10 prompts lots of nodding before the 11th name stops you in your tracks. Basically, it looks like this:

That’s Adolis García, 28-year-old rookie left fielder for the Texas Rangers, who was hitting a cool .295/.338/.581 as of Wednesday morning. García’s path to the top of the Statcast leaderboards hasn’t been easy. In 2016, García defected from Cuba and signed with the Yomiuri Giants of NPB but he only made it into four games and went 0-for-7. The following year, the Cardinals invited him to spring training as an NRI, but he wouldn’t crack the major league roster until 2018.

In his first taste of MLB, he went 2-for-17 with 7 strikeouts. He spent all of 2019 in Triple-A, hitting 32 homers but striking out over 30.1 percent of the time. He was designated for assignment and landed with the Rangers. With the 2020 MiLB season cancelled, García wouldn’t get a full season of reps, only getting seven plate appearances with Texas and striking out in four of those at bats. He was designated for assignment again, but earned an non-roster invite for 2021 spring training hasn’t looked back since.

Before play on Wednesday, García was leading the Rangers with 11 home runs, a .287 ISO, a .390 wOBA, a 153 wRC+, and he was tied for the team lead with Isaiah Kiner-Falefa at 1.5 fWAR. Compared to the rest of the league he ranked fifth in hard-hit rate at 54.9 percent and 13th in average exit velocity at 92.8 mph.

Of course, it’s only May 20 and we’re talking about 139 plate appearances. 139 plate appearances where he also struck out 28.1 percent of the time and walked in only 5.8 of his times in the box. He may rank in the 93rd percentile for exit velocity and 94th for barrel percentage, but he also ranks in the eighth percentile for chase rate and 20th percentile for whiffs.

A propensity to swing and miss coupled with a lack of discipline usually isn’t a winning combination. If his 16 percent swinging strike rate (league average is 11.5 percent) were just inflated by his high chase rate, that’d be one thing. Better pitch recognition and a better idea of the strike zone would fix that, but García is also missing pitches in the zone. He’s missed 33.3 percent of in-zone four-seam fastballs that he’s tried to hit. The league has a 14.0 percent whiff rate on in-zone four-seamers.

Whether he can continue to be the Rangers’ offensive catalyst going forward remains to be seen, but it’s hard to just luck into this sort of success. That’s especially true when pitchers are tossing no-hitters on a weekly nightly basis. He’s doing something right.

Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.