Washington Nationals: Is Luis Garcia Jr. Finally Breaking Out?

Luis Garcia Jr. is off to a very hot start this season despite several middling seasons in the last few years. Just how much has he actually improved?
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

Luis Garcia Jr. is a player that many Nats fans— myself included— have had a lot of hope and fairly high expectations for. Up to this point, he has mostly struggled to meet them, with several middle-of-the-road, disappointing seasons. In 2024, however, Garcia has put together some impressive numbers and improved on a lot of the facets of his game that have led to his failures in prior seasons. 

In 2023, Garcia slashed .266/.304/.385. These numbers are not terrible, but they are definitely not on par with what the Nationals or their fans want out of their everyday second baseman. He showed very brief flashes of power, with 9 home runs, 18 doubles, and 4 triples on the year, but this did not help much in boosting his OPS, which ended at .689 for the year. This was also the case with two of his other four major league seasons, as he has only reached the .700 OPS mark in a full season once. 

Amidst all of this, Garcia did demonstrate a very promising level of plate discipline, with a 12.4% K rate and a 17.9% Whiff rate, putting him in the 96th and 90th percentiles respectively of these categories, despite clearly struggling against changeups and sinkers. 

Even though all of these numbers are mostly serviceable, Garcia’s defense in his tenure with the Nats has easily been his fatal flaw. Garcia’s only season with a positive OAA was playing second base in 2022, and he still was only at 1 OAA. 

Fast forward to 2024, and although there were still some questions during Spring Training,  many of these struggles have seemed to have changed thus far in the regular season, or at least have been improved upon enough to drastically help his game. 

Garcia’s Spring Training numbers made it seem like it would be more of the same this year. He slashed .245/.275/.429 with a .704 OPS, not really showing anything that would signal a big shift in his performance. He also committed 4 errors, again doing more of the same while holding down the position. 

However, when the regular season rolled around though, everything seemed to change. 

Luis Garcia Jr. has been arguably the best hitter for the Nats so far, and has been increasingly consistent defensively at second base. In —an admittedly limited— 24 ABs, he’s currently slashing a staggering .333/.360/.542 with 5 doubles (T-1 in MLB) and 3 RBIs. He currently sits at a .902 OPS and a .425 wOBA, and is barreling the ball and absolutely crushing it when he does, with 33.3% Barrel rate and 66.7% Hard Hit rate. 

Garcia has also been much more consistent with his glove, with a noticeable lack of botched routine plays as well as showing off some real flashiness on several occasions in 2024. 

It is still a very young season, and Garcia has had limited chances so far, especially with the Nationals subbing him out for Ildemaro Vargas several times already amidst this hot streak, but if he continues at this clip, or even slips below it slightly, Garcia could have a monstrous season and completely silence the doubts that many fans have had about his future with the team. We could be looking at a potential full breakout finally from Luis Garcia Jr., and a great option for the Nationals at second base going forward.