Our next preview takes a look at bullpen candidate Yimi Garcia.
The Dodgers saw Yimi Garcia pitch well in 2015, and chances are he will be relied on out of the bullpen in 2016.
Garcia came out of the gate on fire in 2015, confusing hitters with his spin-heavy arsenal. Through his first 14 appearances (14 1/3 innings), Garcia allowed exactly one run and struck out 23 batters, while only walking four. With Kenley Jansen sidelined, Garcia became the Dodgers’ closer after his early-season dominance and struggled, blowing consecutive save opportunities on May 11th and 14th. In those two appearances (one 2/3 innings), Garcia allowed five runs and a pair of homers. The Dodgers came back to win his first blown save, but lost the second.
Garcia made 59 appearances in 2015 and had 45 scoreless outings. He allowed one run eight times, two runs five times and three runs once. He finished the season with a 3.34 ERA/3.20 FIP combo and 68 strikeouts with only 10 walks. More often than not, Garcia was a dependable arm that showed flashes of being a dominant reliever. Not bad for a pre-arb 25-year-old.
2016 Role and Steamers Projections
Garcia will likely have to prove himself out of Spring Training to guarantee a roster spot on Opening Day. He probably has the best stuff out of the bullpen after Jansen, but his ability to be optioned could keep him from starting the season in San Diego with the Dodgers.
Steamers projects Garcia to have a very similar season in 2016. In 55 appearances, Garcia is projected to post a 3.03 ERA/3.40 FIP. Steamers thinks Garcia’s strikeouts will dip slightly and his walks will increase slightly (61 strikeouts, 16 walks in fewer innings).
What Could Go Wrong?
Bullpen arms tend to be so volatile, so a young reliever that posted godly peripherals could seem too good to be true. He’s looked solid in the Spring, but bullpen arms can go south in a heartbeat. It would be out of character to assume everything would work out right.
After a dominant start to the season, Garcia regressed a bit and looked like an average, solid reliever. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but the Dodgers didn’t exactly make any exciting bullpen additions in the offseason. Joe Blanton was a solid signing (Things I Never Thought I Would Write for $500, Alex) and Louis Coleman has had a nice Spring, but after Kenley, there isn’t really an arm that fills everyone with confidence. While Garcia could make a living as a dependable seventh inning guy, he shows flashes of being a legit setup man/closer. Not living up to that would be a bit of a disappointment at this point.
What Could Go Right?
My last 100 or so words focused on Garcia failing to live up to the potential he’s shown so far. Obviously, the best case scenario is that he gets better and becomes that dominant eighth or ninth inning arm.
If you look past ERA, Garcia was extremely impressive in his first full season. 68 strikeouts/10 walks is damn good over the course of 57 innings. Garcia struck out 30 percent of batters he faced and only walked four percent. That’s a good start. His home run-fly ball rate was right around normal, and his batted ball types seem to be in good company. 19.3 percent of contact Garcia allowed was soft, 53.1 percent was medium and 27.6 percent was hard. As a comparison, Jansen allowed 25.5/46.4/28.2. Obviously, Jansen was a bit better, but Garcia’s batted ball types were almost comparable to Jansen’s, with less soft contact allowed, but slightly less hard contact as well.
At times, Garcia looked like he was destined for stardom out of the bullpen. His fastball isn’t anything special in terms of velocity, but his spin rate is elite and makes his fastball that much more dangerous. However, he’s a bit too fastball-dependent. If he can develop a putaway slider or curveball, he could become that much more unhittable. He should, at worst, be a solid bullpen arm for the Dodgers. If he reaches his potential, he could give the Dodgers something to think about with Jansen set to hit the open market in the offseason.