Thursday, November 16, 2006

Prospect Profile: Christian Garcia (#8)

Age: 21
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 205 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round in 2004 out of High School
Position: Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right

Fastball: Garcia has a plus fastball, sitting at 93-94 mph most of the time with some late movement. He can throw very hard, topping out at 97, and when he finally gets healthy he should throw even harder. He is a big guy who should have more muscle than he current has.

Curveball: Christian Garcia has the second best curveball in the Yankee system, second only to Phil Hughes, which is probably damning him with faint praise. His curveball is absolutely excellent, a near plus-plus pitch. He controls is very well and uses it to finish off batters.

Changeup: Garcia throws a circle change, and it has become another plus pitch for him. It gets down to 81 mph and is thrown from the exact same arm slot as his two other pitches. He uses it very effectively to get ahead in the count along with his fastball.

Command: Prior to this season, command was Garcia's issue. Although injuries limited him to only 54 innings, he made huge strides in that department. He walked just 16 during that time, while striking out 60. He had previously walked about twice that many in 2005. His command of all three pitches improved to the point that he may be primed for a major breakout.

Performance: Garcia had a mixed 2005, posting a 3.91 ERA for Charleston in 106 innings, striking out 103 while walking 53. He suffered from an oblique strain and some arm problems to begin 2006, landing him in extended spring training. He spent 5 games rehabbing in the Gulf Coast league, and was promoted to Charleston despite a 9.53 ERA (He struck out 15 in 11.1 innings and walked 4). He did very well there, posting a 3.46 ERA in 41.2 innings. He is currently making up for lost time in the Hawaiian league, pitching 20.2 innings with a 3.05 ERA and 23 strikeouts, although he walked 14.

2007 Outlook: Garcia is headed for Tampa, where he will enter a packed Yankee rotation. With his newfound command, we should expect nothing less than excellence. He has the stuff to move quickly throughout Tampa and Trenton, and could be in the major league picture as soon as mid-2008. He has that kind of stuff.

Health: The Yankees seem pretty confident that Garcia's arm problems are not going to linger. The muscle strains should go away. That said, Garcia was mysterious scratched and removed from the roster in Hawaii last week, and no one seems to know why. Maybe he is injured, or maybe there is some other personal excuse. We'll have to see if Garcia's arm can handle a workload larger than the 110 innings or so that he has been aksed to pitch so far. C

Ceiling: The common saying is that Garcia has the highest ceiling of any Yankee pitching prospect, even more than Phil Hughes. I don't disagree that he has a high ceiling, but I rate both Betances and Hughes higher, which is not a knock on Garcia. His stuff is certainly good enough to win a few Cy Youngs somewhere down the line. A

Reaching his ceiling: Garcia's injuries are troubling, and I am not sure what to think of them. On one hand, a lot of people seem to be optimistic. On the other hand, this mysterious exit from Hawaii is alarming. If Garcia's improvements in command and control are real, we should be very optimistic. If not, then Garcia will forever struggle with his ability to prevent walks.

Comparison: John Lackey. Garica and Lackey both combine a killer, live fastball with amazing curveballs. The changeup seems hardly neccessary when looking at their breaking stuff. Garcia's career will be determined by how close to Lackey's command he gets.

My take: I like Garcia, although he gives me a lot of reasons to be skeptical. A full, healthy season at Tampa where he does not walk the ballpark could propel him to top prospect status in all of the minors. Until then, I will cautiously say he is better than guys like Duncan or Montero, along with more advanced pitchers like Marquez. Maybe he'll be #3 or so if I do these rankings again next year.