Rony Garcia will look to bounce back after a horrific 2020 season. The Detroit Tigers will look to rein in his command and instill some confidence before we see him back in Detroit.
There’s no way around it – Rony Garcia had a dumpster fire of a season for the Detroit Tigers in 2020. Over 21 innings, Garcia gave up nearly one run per inning, while striking out only six batters per nine innings and walking four per nine. His WHIP of 1.62 was among the worst in baseball for qualified pitchers and he struggled with the long ball, giving up seven home runs. His Statcast data offers no relief, as he ranked in the bottom twenty percentile in every single statistical category. In the second half of the year, Garcia was stashed at the back end of the roster and used almost entirely for mop-up duty.
As is often the case with rule five draft picks, or even 22 year-olds in general, Garcia was clearly not ready for the rigors of facing Major League-caliber hitters. To be fair, he was just getting acclimated to AA ball in the Yankees system before the Tigers poached him away to join their roster.
Rony Garcia still has two years of team control at the minimum salary before he enters the first of his three arbitration seasons. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2026, should he still be in the Tigers system at that point. The team liked Garcia enough to keep him on the roster through his disastrous 2020 season, instead of returning him to the Yankees.
It’s hard to find positives in the brutal season for Garcia, but it is important to remember that he is still only 22 years old. Prior to joining the Tigers, he had only pitched just over 100 innings above A ball. His lack of experience certainly didn’t help his below-average stuff play up.
The Tigers were likely drawn to Garcia because of his big frame and fastball velocity. Standing at 6’3 200, Garcia looks large and powerful on the mound. He flashed signs of above-average velocity in Spring Training and early in the season, hitting 96 mph on a number of occasions. However, as the season wore on, he lost much of that velocity and his average fastball fell to 93 mph or league average.
Garcia flashed a solid changeup at times. Statistically, the changeup was by far his best pitch, as it held opposing hitters to a .167 clip. He did not generate enough swings and misses against lefties to really dream on the changeup becoming an “out pitch”, but his ability to limit hard contact and keep hitters off-balance with the changeup is a place to start.
The main source of Garcia’s downfall was his inability to command his fastball. When watching Garcia, it became predictable that he would miss the catcher’s target on just about every fastball. He threw a first-pitch strike on under 50 percent of at-bats, effectively digging his own grave many times. When he was able to get his fastball over for strikes, it got demolished for a hard hit rate of 47 percent.
Garcia also struggled to generate any swings and misses with his breaking ball. In fact, hitters whiffed only 21 percent of the time on the slider, while crushing the pitch for a .800 slugging percentage. Simply put, Garcia needs to completely revamp his breaking ball if he is going to find any success.
The 2021 Detroit Tigers ZIPS projections are not optimistic about Garcia’s ability to right the ship this season. Over 100 innings of work, ZIPS projects Garcia to pitch to a 5.92 ERA and -0.2 WAR. They do project slight improvement to his strikeout and walk rates, as well as his home run rate, which drive his ERA improvement from 2020. Interestingly enough, ZIPS expects much of Garcia’s work to come as a starter, predicting he starts 19 games this year.
First of all, if Rony Garcia starts 19 games in the big leagues this season, it will mean that half of the Tigers’ starting rotation was eaten by lions and the other half opted out of the season. If he makes 19 starts, Tigers fans might actually show up to Al Avila’s office with pitchforks.
All jokes aside, I think Rony Garcia will spend the majority of the season in AAA, working to refine his command and develop a third pitch. Whether or not the Detroit Tigers see him as a starter remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is part of the rotation in Toledo.
Assuming Garcia gets some work in with the Tigers this year, the ZIPS projections seem pretty fair. I hope the best for Garcia, but he needs to make some major improvements if he is going to be a Major League caliber player.