“5 tool player”
“Potential 40 HR power”
This is the type of hype that surrounded Avisail Garcia when he was shipped to Chicago in a 3 team deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston. You can understand the excitment when you see his build (6-4 240lb) and early production. Named the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year for the Tigers farm system, and even joining Detroits World Series run that year at 21 years old, he looked like a young superstar in the making.
The hype train for Avi was at an all time high after batting .304 with a .775 OPS in his first 42 games on the White Sox in 2013.
Over the next 3 seasons the Avi hype train turned into more of a children’s train ride at your local mall. It did not take long to realize the original “5 tool player” designation was just coach speak, and Avi’s arm and fielding would never be considered “plus” tools. His slash lines were the definition of mediocre with an OPS lower than .700 and a career WAR of .1 through his first 400 games. It sure seemed like the Sox had a bust on their hands.
Most White Sox fans, myself included, were in agreement that Avi was never going to be more than a replacement level corner OF. He wasn’t in most people’s minds when talking about White Sox cornerstones to build their young team around and that might be exactly what Avi needed…
With basically zero pressure on him, going into what most expected to be a down season in Chicago, he could finally relax. You could see the change happen as early as spring training. Avi was having fun again. He’s always been a fun loving player and a great guy to have in the dugout, but on the field before this year he looked serious and rigid. This change is most evident when you look at his batting stance. He looks more relaxed and confident at the plate and I’ll link an example:
2015 Avi smashing a hanging breaking ball In this swing you see he hunched over stance with very little movement before the pitch.
2017 Avi showing opposite field power. Here he is much more upright and has a confident look.
New relaxed Avi is currently 5th in the American League in OPS at .918 and 4th in BA hitting .326. He has also brought up the previously mentioned .1 career WAR to 2.3. By just looking at stats Avi deserves to be a starting corner OF along with Yankees OF Aaron Judge in the 2017 MLB All Star Game. Him getting that starting spot doesn’t feel likely to happen though with the White Sox not being in the national spotlight or even talked about often this year.
He has his doubters and for good reason. 3 seasons of slightly above replacement play will do that to you. I’ll point out that he had most people saying he couldn’t keep it up for 20 games, then 30 games, and now we’re through the first 50 games and he’s still delivering night in and night out. Defensive inneficiancy be damned! This is All Star voting and he deserves his spot.
Now I don’t know if this new Avi is going to be a building block for a young White Sox franchise, but we’re over 1/4 of the way through the 2017 season and Avisail Garcia is a top 3 outfielder in the American League. That feels good to say.