There’s a lot of reason to be excited about Jaime Garcia. After being selected in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft, Garcia pitched very well in 2006, held his own as a 21 year old in AA in 2007 and made it all the way to the majors as a 22 year old pitcher. He suffered an elbow strain toward the end of 2007 that the club chose to treat with rehab only to see the ligament tear the following year. Since having Tommy John surgery last year, Garcia has begun working his way back with rehab starts at various levels of the system.
On August 19th, he started at Memphis with a terrible first inning followed by a successful 5 frames where he struck out 8.
Delivery: Garica’s delivery remains very over the top though not quite as extreme as Tim Lincecum (or if anyone’s seen Eddie Degerman as well). One thing that fans may not like much is the very deliberate (read: slow) approach Garcia takes. Besides slowing down the pace of the game, it would seem to lend itself to oppenents stealing bases. Being a left hander will certainly mitigate that but, personally, I’m not a fan of the “tempo” Garcia has with his delivery.
Fastball: Given the arm slot, Garcia gets a lot of natural sink on his fastball. It lends itself to having batters roll over the top of it. The flip side is that when it’s up in the zone it’s a very vulnerable pitch. Garcia isn’t a pitcher who has a separate fastball he can throw by guys up in the zone; He’s going to live in the bottom half with his fastball if he’s going to have success with it. It sits 89-91 touching 93 so the velocity is there. Garcia threw a LOT of fastballs in this start and my suspicion is that it was part of his rehab instructions to try and get his command back. Fastballs accounted for over 70% of the pitches by my count.
Curveball: In combination with the fastball, this pitch plays well. The arm slot remains the same and the pitch doesn’t really change in its path to the plate until the midway point when sink becomes exaggerated. Saying that the bottom “falls out of it” would be an overstatement but it does drop more than his fastball while looking the same on it’s way to the plate. The third inning strikeout of uber-prospect Buster Posey (seen below), is a great example of the curveball used properly. The difference between the fastball (pitch 2) and the curveball (pitch 3) to Timpner in the first inning shows a great comparison of how deceptive the curveball is. The pitch is Garcia’s secondary pitch of choice when he can throw it for strikes.
Changeup: Garcia has a changeup but I didn’t pick up on more than a handful of them. In the past we’ve heard that it’s not much more than an average pitch or something to keep opposing hitters off balance. I can’t comment on it to any real degree given its paucity but the best example that I picked up on was to Ciriaco in the 4th inning where the pitch breaks away from the right hander on the outside of the plate and the batter is well ahead of the pitch.
Command: Garcia’s command was an issue all night. It was especially prevelant in the first inning. Here’s the first pitch that Joe Borchard sees with men on 1st and 3rd.
That is a fat pitch. The homerun that Copeland hits is a similarly missed location where the fastball catches way too much of the plate. Simply put, Garcia’s command is, maybe, at about 60% of where it needs to be. It definitely gets better as the game goes on but 1) he’s throwing a lot of fastballs to improve that command, 2) hitters still sat on the fastball ignoring the curve and 3) there were several 1st pitch fastballs taken for strikes that a big leaguer would have destroyed. The curveball showed good break but he struggled to get it in the strikezone or close enough for batters to chase. All too often, it was bouncing in the dirt.
Summary: The outlook for Garcia hasn’t really changed. He still profiles as a mid-rotation pitcher with flashes of being more than that depending on command and his ability to throw the curve against right handers without getting anihilated. I’ve commented in the past that I don’t see why the Cardinals wouldn’t give him a big league start or two in 2009 when they have to utilize a minor leaguer. I don’t agree with that sentiment any longer as the things he needs to work on prohibit him from having a gameplan to attack hitters. His game plan right now is designed to get his command back and get his feel for the curveball at 100%. It isn’t conducive to retiring major leaguers. Fans should wait for 2010 to see Garcia, but when he comes up, he should be the best pitching prospect since Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes to graduate from the minors.