The new frontier that is the White Sox rebuild has already yielded some interesting results. Multiple young players who have been written off have been given additional chances at the big league level, and are finding success. Matt Davidson is hitting the cover off the baseball, former Twins, Indians, and Yankees castoff Anthony Swarzak is showing the stuff of a shutdown late inning reliever, and Avisail Garcia is slashing .380/.429/.577 (!!!). However, one of the most impressive performances has come from now everyday outfielder Leury Garcia. So let’s take a closer look at Little Leury.
Leury Garcia was acquired by the White Sox in 2013 in a post-waiver trade deadline deal with the Texas Rangers for Alex Rios. With Rios set to be a free agent following the 2013 season, receiving Garcia from the Rangers in exchange for 2 months of Rios seemed like a fair return. At the time Leury, a 5’-8” 170 lb infielder, was around the 15th best prospect in the Ranger’s minor league system. Most scouting reports agreed at the time that Leury’s ceiling was as a utility player given his solid defense and strong arm, but questionable bat. Even as a smaller player, Future Sox at the time acknowledged Leury’s power potential compared to other Sox infield prospects at the time Carlos Sanchez (now Yolmer) and Eduardo Escobar. However, they also indicated that Carlos Sanchez’s and Eduardo Escobar’s hit tool were more likely to project in the majors. John Sickels of Minor League Ball had this to say about Leury Garcia:
“Leury Garcia is an outstanding defensive infielder: he’d get a lot more play if the Rangers didn’t have Jurickson Profar ahead of him on the shortstop prospect chart. As it stands, Garcia spends a lot of time at second base, but his range, hands, and arm strength make him a premium gloveman at short if given the chance. He’s also an excellent baserunner with terrific speed, 75 or 80 on the 20- 80 scale, and unlike many such players he knows how to use it. Unfortunately, Garcia’s total lack of power and his impatience at the plate cut into his value. Nobody expects home runs, but if he could boost his OBP he’d be a nice leadoff guy. He’s likely a utility infielder in the long run, or trade bait. Grade C+.
Sickels was right as Garcia did become trade bait for the Rangers. At the time of the trade, Hawk Harrelson shared multiple times that AJ Pierzynski, who was with the Rangers in 2013 and perhaps biased, indicated that Leury’s potential was much greater than that of a utility player. Many took this information with a grain of salt, as those who have grown up listening to Hawk know that he tends to have overly optimistic expectations about White Sox players and prospects. However, we are beginning to see some of that potential coming out now.
Since his acquisition, Garcia has spent parts of each season in Chicago with poor results. In 130 big league games from 2013-2016 with the Sox Garcia hit .188 with a .223 OBP, hitting 2 home runs with 12 RBI, 14 steals, and 68 strikeouts in 256 at bats. He spent the majority of his time from 2013-2016 at AAA Charlotte, where he put up much stronger numbers. However, Leury played especially well at Charlotte in 2016 hitting .313/.367/.426 with 6 home runs, 35 RBI, and 18 steals. This improvement, which has carried over into the big leagues this year, is due in large part to an adjustment to his swing and approach. Prior to 2016, Garcia was purely a slap hitter. He held his hands high in his stance, had a very small stride, and didn’t use his legs very well. This is shown in video from 10/3/15:
The below pre-pitch screenshot shows Garcia with a high hands setup, and the video shows Garcia with very small stride he slaps the ball the other way, driving in JB Shuck for a White Sox winner in 2015.
Fast forwarding to his September call up in 2016, Garcia exhibits some the changes he had made to his swing and approach on 9/27/16 with a triple against the Rays:
The video and below pre-pitch screenshots show Garcia changed his setup at the plate, lowering his hands compared to what you see in the video from 2015. He also added a pronounced leg kick. The leg kick and deliberate loading of his hands has given him a good timing mechanism at the plate that he lacked before, as well as contributing to keeping his weight back. The result is a solid and balanced swing. This new approach has seen Leury tap into some of pop as well, as he now hits the ball with authority instead of slapping it around.
Fast forwarding to this season, the fruits of Leury’s adjustments are seen almost daily. The first example is video of Leury hitting a home run against the Yankees on 4/18/17:
The video and below screenshots shows Leury’s pronounced leg kick and load of the hands. With these factors leading to a balanced and surprisingly powerful swing, Leury hits it out of the park.
Leg kick + load.
You can put that one on the board.
Next we have Leury’s RBI single vs. Indians on 4/23/17:
This video and the below screenshots gives us a good side view of Leury’s leg kick, load, and balance through the swing.
Leg kick + load.
Before play on 4/26/17, Leury Garcia is hitting .318/.348/.500 with a .848 OPS, with 5 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBI, and 1 steal. While he has only walked once, he has only struck out 4 times in 44 at bats as well. With Jacob May continuing to struggle and there being not many outfield options in the minor leagues, Leury should continue to see consistent playing time. His adjustments and improvements are paying dividends and he has certainly earned an opportunity to continue to show what he is capable of producing with regular at bats. The White Sox rebuild has already provided Sox fans with a new perspective and some entertaining surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise of them all is found in Leury’s new-found success at the big league level. My goodness, AJ Pierzynski was right! Well, it’s a long season, and time will tell if he can sustain this success over the 162 game grind. For now, let’s enjoy watching this interestingly entertaining rebuilding White Sox team, and Little Leury’s big bat. -DV
P.S. …Leury hit another home run today.
Photo: Keith Allison on Flickr
Screenshots from MLB.com/Video