When the Cubs inked infielder Robel Garcia late last fall, I did not think anything of it beyond creating depth in the minors. There was no way anyone could have envisioned what the 26-year-old, who’d been out of American professional baseball since 2013, has done since.
No other player at Iowa, or anywhere else in the Cubs system, is dominating like Garcia and his performance this year puts him on the precipice of the majors. With a .988 OPS and system-leading 16 home runs, lets start the discussion on if and when he can make his way to Chicago.
Basic Info (From when he was signed at 16)
Ht – 6’ 0″
Wt – 168 (though he looks much bigger)
Age – 26
Bats – Switch
Throws – Right
Originally signed by the Indians in 2009
Originally from the Dominican, Garcia played four years in the Indians system from 2010-13 without much success. He hit in the low .200s all but his second year in the Arizona Rookie League, when he batted .284 with 6 dingers in 45 games. It’s interesting that the Tribe organization thought enough of him to skip playing in the Dominican Summer League, but his time with the Indians was forgettable and he was released in 2013.
It was so forgettable, in fact, that he wasn’t able to catch on with another MLB organization. He found places to play all over the world, including Italy, and the Cubs discovered him and signed him last fall when the Italian team swung through the Mesa complex. Garcia’s time in Italy saw him maintain an average usually in the mid .300’s and around a .600 slugging percentage.
When watching Garcia hit, the first thing that startles you is the sound the ball makes coming off the bat. He’s got that “it” factor that just tells you something is different about him.
It did not take Garcia long to acclimate to Double-A baseball at Tennessee this April. In just 22 games, he tore it up to the tune of a .295/.391/.590 slash with 6 homers and 26 RBI for an amazing 182 wRC+.
.@smokiesbaseball are out to an early lead thanks to a towering two-run homer from Robel Garcia
— The Southern League (@SLeagueBaseball) April 22, 2019
As of June 10, his production at Iowa has been nearly as good. In 30 Triple-A games, Garcia’s slashing .301/.373/.619 with 10 home runs and with 23 RBI. His wRC+ has fallen to at 124, but that’s still well above average.
That’s because Garcia is missing the ball more when he swings. His K rate at Iowa is an ungodly 35.5% while his walk rate is down to 8.3% after being at 13% in Tennessee. If he wants to get to Wrigley, those strikeouts are going to have to come way down.
There might be some concerns defensively as well. If you just looked at the stat line, you would see that he’s made 13 errors while playing some first and second base, but most of his time and errors have been at third. Actually watching him, though, you’d realize the talent is there and he’s just made some bad plays.
As time has gone on, he’s gotten better and he makes some highlight reel plays from time to time. He’s actually decent at second, though third is a bit of a stretch for him, Overall, his issues seem correctable with time and additional coaching.
The real issues in bringing up Garcia, aside from the strikeouts, are that he is not on the 40-man roster and there is not a place for him to play every day, even in a bench role. The only chance he has of making it to the majors this year looks to be either as an injury replacement or following a trade.
At his age and limited exposure, he is not likely to be an asset that the Cubs can move. However, should the time and the need arrive, his power and ability to hit from both sides of the plate make him an interesting option should the Cubs need infield help.