Saturday, March 27, 2010

Piliere Impressed With Christian Garcia

Christian Garcia was selected by the Yankees in the third round (99th overall) of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. That was the same draft that the Yankees landed current fifth starter Phil Hughes. While Hughes has become a household among Yankees fans, Garcia has been stricken by injury after injury, keeping him somewhat hidden in the background. Garcia's stuff, though, has never been the problem.

Frankie Piliere, a former scout who is now an analyst for AOL Fanhouse, recently saw the right-hander throw against the Phillies down in Yankees minor league camp, and it's safe to say he was pretty impressed.
He's plenty scary right now though, and he has a lot more going for him than just his fastball. Garcia is a complete, three-pitch pitcher, and that is with three plus pitches. I don't like to throw around plus grades often, so to see a pitcher with three plus pitches is a real rarity. It's never been about stuff with this big right-hander; it's always been about his health.

Garcia's signature pitch is his hammer curveball at 79-82 mph. The best comparison for his breaking ball is A.J. Burnett's. Like Burnett's curveball, his action is late and very tight. As Jayson Werth learned on Wednesday, working out with the Phillies' Double-A squad, Garcia has the type of curveball that's close to unhittable even if you are expecting it in an 0-2 count. Werth struck out swinging twice against Garcia, both on breaking balls following high fastballs that he also swung through. His curveball grades out easily as a 7 pitch on the 2-8 scale. He made a lot of good hitters look lost on Wednesday, and he's going to produce a lot of swings and misses at the next level if he keeps spinning it with that type of command and action.

The arsenal doesn't end there. Garcia also showed off a plus changeup at 80-83 mph, which he was able to use very consistently against left-handed hitters. Also very impressive were the swings and misses he got with this pitch. You don't often see that with a pitcher that could easily just rely on his devastating breaking ball. His changeup grades out as a 6 on the 2-8 scale.

Consider the arsenal Garcia showed off on Wednesday. His plus fastball with good movement produces a huge amount of groundballs and broken bats. His curveball is an elite, swing-and-miss type pitch. And, he has a changeup he can locate with excellent consistency with a 10-14 mph differential from his fastball. The main complaint about the Yankees farm system from a pitching perspective is that they lack a hurler with frontline upside in the upper levels of their system. If Garcia is on the field and throwing like he did on Wednesday, that won't be the case for long.
As a Yankees fan, your eyes have to light up while reading something like this. It sure seems like he has everything you need to succeed at the major league level, at least as far as his stuff is concerned.

Last year, after coming back from yet another injury, he finished off the year very well with Double-A Trenton, going 2-0, with a 0.71 ERA in five starts. In 25.1 innings, he allowed just 2 earned runs on 15 hits, walked 17 and struck out 24, and opponents hit a measly .172 against him.

Staying healthy is the key for Garcia, and that's something he hasn't been able to do. Since being drafted in 2004 he's been able to throw just 260.2 innings, but Pilierre optimistically points out in the article that it seems Garcia's finally back on track. Let's hope he's right, because the Yankees could have a stud on their hands.

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