The Philadelphia Phillies have made a number of changes to their bullpen mix this off-season.
In the continuation of my offseason series on candidates to fill roles in the 2016 Phillies bullpen, Luis Garcia is the next arm at which we will take a closer look.
Thus far in his career with the Phillies, it has to be characterized that Garcia has at least been solid. In 109 games over parts of three big league seasons, Garcia has compiled a 6-7 record and 3.94 ERA in spite of a rather large 1.661 WHIP mark.
Garcia is coming off his best season in 2015, having registered a 4-6 record, 3.51 ERA, and 3.69 FIP despite another large WHIP of 1.635 this season. Part of the issue with the high WHIP is that he walks far too many batters.
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In 2015, Garcia had a walks-per-nine innings pitched ratio of 5:9, a completely unacceptable level. A big reason that he was able to minimize damage from all those free passes was that he put up pretty solid strikeout numbers, with an 8.5:9 K-per-nine innings pitched ratio. Limiting the walks is definitely something he must improve upon in order to ensure himself a position in the 2016 bullpen.
Fans have developed a soft spot for Garcia because of his unique path to the majors, well chronicled in a story by Maria Guardado of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. In short, the story discusses how Garcia rose from working as a barber to eventually performing well enough in a bullpen session that the Phillies gave him a chance, signing him in March 2013 after the New York Yankees had passed on him – twice.
“The first time they (Yankees) saw me was here in New York,” Garcia was quoted in the Guardado piece. “And the second time was over there where I worked at Frozen Ropes (a New Jersey indoor baseball facility.) But nothing happened. But after they saw me, the Phillies saw me. And here I am.”
Garcia would take that opportunity given by the Phils organization and run with it. He reached the big leagues by that following July of 2013 after tearing through three levels of the Phillies’ minor leagues at Clearwater (14 games), Reading (11), and finally eight games with Lehigh Valley.
Looking toward 2016, Garcia has an excellent shot to make the Phillies’ bullpen, despite the penchant for free passes. Being one of the most tenured Phillies of all the candidates helps his case. The organization is comfortable with him by now, and they know how he will perform in Citizens Bank Park. When at home, he has a career ERA of 4.26 (3.79 in 2015), which is certainly serviceable enough.
Our own Matt Veasey put Garcia in the conversation to be the Phillies’ closer because of his past usage to end games for the Phillies. While that is likely a stretch, it is certainly not out of the question.
However, a shot at the closer role is not where he should be focusing at present. As I’ve mentioned, Garcia’s primary concern should be on reducing his walks, thus increasing his chances of making a team that has been increasing its options in recent months with the additions of veterans such as Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica, and Ernesto Frieri. As long as he does get the walks to go down, Garcia has a good shot to still be around come Opening Day.
Similar to what I stated in my piece on another bullpen candidate, Dalier Hinojosa, the fact that Garcia is under team control through 2020 does not necessarily mean that he will be around that long. At 29 years of age entering the season, Garcia is not very young, and may only be around to fill in until younger arms are ready to take the reins.
For now, Garcia seems like a good bet to rise from the large crop of contenders to fill a spot in the wide open 2016 Phillies bullpen.