The Nationals as a whole are entering the 2023 season with low expectations. The team led all of Major League Baseball last season with 107 losses and most baseball experts do not expect much more out of them in the year to come. However, that does not mean there aren’t high expectations for some of the players on the roster, particularly the young players. Everyone knows there is hype around the prospects acquired in trades over the past couple of seasons, like CJ Abrams, Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz and more. But it might actually be a homegrown prospect that is most poised to breakout in 2023: Luis Garcia.
Nationals fans have gotten to see a fair amount of Luis Garcia in his young career. He made his debut in the 2020 shortened season at just 20 years old. He played 40 games for the Nats that season, and might have had the worst home run call ever, especially for a player’s first career home run. He started the 2021 season in AAA for more seasoning, but rejoined the team just past the halfway mark, after the Nationals had a fire sale at the trade deadline. He played 70 games for the Nats that year, and his numbers dipped slightly but remained relatively similar to the numbers we saw in 2020. To that point, while he was just 21 years old, nothing really stood out about Garcia’s game and there was definite room for improvement.
To start the 2022 season, the Nationals again opted to have Garcia start the year in AAA, despite the opportunity/need to have him play up with the big league club. It was a decision that seemed to pay off as when Garcia finally was called up in June, we saw improvement across the board offensively. Garcia would finish the campaign having played 93 games and hitting .275/.295/.408 for a .704 OPS, which was a career high. He also made a notable jump in OPS+, going from 86 in 2021 to 102 in 2022, which was just above league average. He also displayed a better spray chart, not pulling the ball so much and showing a willingness to hit the ball the other way. He also had a career high in Hard Hit % with 36.7%, a 6% increase from 2021.
Now there are still areas in Luis Garcia’s game that need to be addressed. He does not walk much. Not at all really. He had a career low 2.9% walk rate in 2022 and a career high 22.3% strikeout rate. These two metrics, especially combined, are not usually a recipe for success and will need to be improved upon before he takes the field in 2023. Hopefully Garcia can get a few tips from former teammate Juan Soto, who was one of the best in baseball in both metrics.
The other aspect to Garcia’s game that is not being mentioned as much is he is no longer expected to play Shortstop, as that is now CJ Abrams’ domain. He may find himself filling in for Abrams to spell him occasionally during the long season, but Garcia is entering the season as the Nationals’ everyday second baseman, a role much more suited for his skillset defensively. We have seen countless stories over the years of how playing out of position can mess with a players’ mindset, especially a young player like Garcia. It is why when you do find a Swiss army knife type player, they are incredibly valuable. Garcia doesn’t have to worry about playing one of the most demanding positions (not that second base is easy) and can focus on becoming more well rounded.
Will Garcia be a top 10, top 15 MVP finish type player? Probably not. But he has displayed progress over the past three seasons and is entering this year not fighting for a roster spot, but rather as a starter. Consistency is key for a young player like Garcia, and that is what he will be trying to prove himself in 2023.
If you need any more reason to be excited for Luis Garcia’s potential, check out this awesome highlight reel created by @reverrsse on Twitter: