A 3-5 day with two home runs can put a significant shine on any two-and-a-half week stretch, but Avisail Garcia is now hitting .308/.378/.492 in September. This is a source of happiness.
Coming back after over four months out of MLB action, Garcia was really tasked to do nothing. If he could simply display that the bag of unvarnished tools that flopped around clumsily prior to his injury was still in place, that would be a success. Any refinement would a brand new development in and of itself.
For example, Garcia has drawn eight walks in September. He had nine in 2013. Anecdotally, a heavy portion of them have been deep, worked counts, where Garcia didn't let the stakes of the situation break down his approach, or his attention to what the opposing pitcher is doing. In terms of boring data scrolling, he's swinging at just as much, but whiffing less, fouling off more, staying alive. He may never be a sage at the plate, but someone with an advanced hit tool should be finding a way to stay under a 30% strikeout rate. It looks like that could be happening. Why not just believe it's true? He won't get enough plate appearances to prove anything either way.
Seeing him add refinement and patience is one thing, but it also will never be his game. Garcia succeeding or failing will mostly be predicated on maximizing his tools. For example, Dayan Viciedo has plus bat speed, power and a throwing arm, but has a really hard time getting himself in position to use any of them.
Garcia has obviously enormous raw power--he hit 910-feet worth of home runs on Sunday--but the combination of his long swing, trouble shortening up and pulling his hands in, and just general comfort going the other way has often restricted his power outbursts to moments where he so phenomenally trucks a ball that it can make it out to right and dead center. This is never not impressive but a hard way to reach 20 home runs per year.
So it was beyond encouraging to see Garcia turn on pitches twice on Sunday to left, and especially, super-duper encouraging to see him turn on a 92 mph fastball on the inner half from a right-handed starter. The starter was Nathan Karns, a 26-year-old who got rocked in Triple-A this season, but the elements are there, man!
Garcia can already pepper everything on the outer half all over the yard, so if he can start putting some punishments in place for the otherwise solid strategy of busting him up and inside, it can do a world of good. Most interesting would be how the last three home runs have looked. When he first started, Avisail finished his swing firmly with two hands on the bat, part of a full-bodied, max-effort spin that took a long time to get his huge frame fully into and often left him off-balance at the end. For two of his last three bombs, all three of which went to left field, have featured more of a one-handed finish. Beyond just showing herculean strength to club bombs over 450 feet away with that, the one-hand approach, has correlated with him getting the bat head out earlier and turning his hips out on the ball a bit sooner.
He doesn't have to suddenly be great at it, because the advantage that Garcia holds over someone like Viciedo or a similar player is that his major league viability isn't entirely dependent on him learning to do something he's never learned how to do consistently. That he can flash the ability on occasion will do a lot to present him with a lot of options on how to be effective.
Garcia has been the best kind of toolsy player of recent. He's been showing a wide complement of ways to make a difference. He preceded his power showing by legging out a chopper for an infield single amid a Saturday where he reached base thrice while his teammates added little. On Tuesday, he started a run of outfield assists by gunning out Eric Hosmer at home plate. A trio of Dayan Viciedo, Adam Eaton and Garcia does nothing if not throw the ball pretty well.
When Garcia went down in April, likely gone was any chance of entering a crucial 2015 season with a firm idea of what he was as a player. But if the flurry continues, the rumor and mystery can surround just how good we think he can be, rather that concern whether he is a permanent fixture after all.
Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat