Is Deivi Garcia Back?
By Andy Singer
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images
Everywhere Yankee fans looked last year, disappointment could be found. The 2021 Yankees severely underperformed in numerous areas, and one could argue that even areas in which the team had success came with an asterisk. One such area was in the minor league player development department. The Yankees had an overwhelmingly successful year building young talent with one very notable exception. Deivi Garcia, a fast-rising star in 2019 and 2020, took several steps backward in 2021. Coming into 2021, Garcia was competing for a spot in the rotation. By the end of the season, the numbers were ugly: just two disappointing big league starts, a 6.85 ERA at Scranton, and an alarming 6.8 BB/9 and 10.1 H/9 rate at AAA. In fact, Garcia took such a severe step back that his ranking in legitimate prospect publications plummeted this offseason, and in my personal prospect rankings list, Garcia did not crack the top-12 after sitting in the top-3 in years prior.
While any player can have a bad year, there were real reasons to suspect that Garcia’s downward trend was permanent. Garcia and the Yankees embarked on a quest to alter his mechanics to find more consistency, and it qualitatively altered Garcia’s ability to locate his pitches, removed deception from his delivery, and neutered his most impressive offering, a true 12-6 curveball. Garcia went from being a diminutive pitcher with deception, a bigger fastball than one would expect, and excellent secondary pitches, to a pitcher with a generic fastball and no control whose only trick was to sling sliders from a low 3/4 arm slot from behind his back. While both the player and the team stated this offseason that the goal would be for Garcia to undo many of the mechanical changes we saw in 2021, altering mechanics is easier said than done.
Garcia was one of the players I was most interested to watch in Spring Training this year. Of course, my day job has made it difficult to watch as much Yankees’ Spring Training as I’d like, but with the modern world of internet, it’s been pretty easy to find video of interest. Spring Training stats are largely meaningless, so I won’t cite any here, but my interest was piqued when I started hearing that Deivi Garcia looked really good in his first MLB outing. Out of curiosity, I jumped over to Statcast to see if there was anything interesting in Garcia’s first measured pitches of the Spring. Lo and behold, there was something interesting there:
Deivi Garcia Statcast Measurements, 3-23-2022 vs, BAL (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia’s fastball and curveball were both 2.7 MPH faster on average in his first start of the Spring versus his average velocity in 2021. 2.7 MPH is a huge jump (in Deivi’s case, likely representing a full grade on the scouting report higher), and his trademark curveball was harder while maintaining its elite spin rate, which bodes well for swings and misses. Some might say that we’re talking about small sample sizes here, but velocity stabilizes very quickly. That said, for those concerned about small sample sizes, see what happened in Garcia’s last start on 3/28 against Detroit:
Deivi Garcia Statcast Measurements, 3-28-2022 vs. DET (Click to Enlarge)
Here again, Garcia was throwing even harder against Detroit on 3/28 than he did against Baltimore on 3/23. Garcia’s results were different than what we’ve seen previously, but is there any reason to think this is sustainable? For that, I went to the video tape.
Here is a Deivi Garcia pitch from 5/29/2022 in a start against Detroit:
Here’s a Deivi Garcia pitch from his 3/23/2022 start against Baltimore:
You might be able to see some subtle differences in his delivery between the two videos. While they appear subtle at full speed, taking some still shots at key points in his delivery show some real differences in Garcia’s mechanics this year versus last year.
Let’s first look at the top of Garcia’s delivery as his leg reaches it’s apex lift:
Deivi Garcia Top of Delivery 5/29/2021 (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia Top of Delivery 3/23/2022 (Click to Enlarge)
Here, we can see quite clearly that Deivi Garcia gets significantly more rotation at the top of his delivery. While the camera angles are slightly different, we can very clearly see that more of Garcia’s back is facing home plate and his lift foot (left foot) is pointing more towards second base than SS in 2022 versus 2021. The Yankees tried to diminish Garcia’s rotation in 2021, but it has clearly returned in 2022.
Now, let’s observe his drive to the plate:
Deivi Garcia Drive 5/29/2021 (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia Drive 3/23/2022 (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia is what scouts and pitching instructors would refer to as a “Drop-and-Drive” pitcher. After Garcia gets to the top of his delivery, he collapses his back leg and drives towards the plate. This creates a powerful delivery, but too much drop can lead to a flatter fastball and issues commanding breaking balls by dropping the release point. Deivi is clearly standing taller through the “Drop” phase of his delivery in 2022, which should allow him to get better fastball plane and be more on top of his breaking balls.
Now let’s look at his delivery just prior to release:
Deivi Garcia Pre-Release 5/29/2021 (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia Pre-Release 3/23/2022 (Click to Enlarge)
We’re back to talking about rotation, folks. In 2021, Garcia plants his landing leg further outside of the line, leading to less rotation and a toss that is executed with more arm and less leg and rotation. We’d call this “Stepping in the Bucket” a term used to describe the act of stepping the lead leg outside of the line to the plate, creating a weaker position from which one can throw. In 2022, Deivi Garcia’s leg actually comes slightly across the line, encouraging significantly more arm whip due to increased involvement from legs and body rotation.
Let’s look at one more still image comparison, evaluating Garcia’s finish:
Deivi Garcia Finish 5/29/2021 (Click To Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia Finish 3/23/2022 (Click To Enlarge)
This is the result of not stepping in the bucket in 2022. Garcia finishes further over his front side, finishing lower and through the baseball. All of the mechanical changes I’ve pointed out above make Garcia’s delivery more efficient, creating velocity and a better arm slot from which to both control the baseball and fire good breaking balls.
Statcast shows us that mechanical changes are netting real results with Garcia’s release point. You will note above that Garcia was standing closer to the middle of the pitching rubber in 2021 while in 2022 he is further to the 3B side of the rubber. That in and of itself changes horizontal release point and can create more deception, but let’s look at the total impact:
Garcia Release Point 5/29/2021 (Click to Enlarge)
Garcia Release Point 3/23/2022 (Click to Enlarge)
Deivi Garcia’s release point is very clearly more on top of the baseball, particularly when we look at his curveball, which was largely lost in 2021.
Deivi Garcia’s mechanics are in a far better place in 2022 than they were in 2021. Garcia is officially back on the list of Yankee farm hands that can help the team in 2022. Believe the hype – Deivi Garcia is back.