Little Miggy was the nickname given to the young prospect from Venezuela, called up to Detroit at the age of 21, in the final month of the 2012 season. Avisail Garcia was a big -- 6'4", 240 pounds -- right-handed hitter, bearing a striking resemblance to the Tigers’ slugger from the same country who was in the process of winning a triple crown for the first time in 45 years that season.
When the Tigers dealt Garcia to Chicago in 2013 in a three-way trade that sent starting pitcher Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox and Jose Iglesias to Detroit, the White Sox were the team that received the most promising prospect in the deal. Boston needed starting pitching and Detroit needed a shortstop at the time, while Chicago was playing strictly for the future. Although they received three other minor leaguers from Boston in the trade, Garcia was the centerpiece of the deal for them.
Not only did Garcia and Miguel Cabrera have similar physical attributes, but the junior player showed raw physical skills that gave scouts reason to believe that he would one day be a star player in the major leagues. Three seasons later, now playing for the Chicago White Sox, the promise of Little Miggy remains unfulfilled.
Now, Garcia is a 24-year-old full-time outfielder who has logged 559 plate appearances in 2015, but is still struggling to find his way in the major leagues. His "triple crown" line of a .262 average, 12 home runs, and 56 RBI may not look so bad, but he currently carries negative ratings across the board. The White Sox have been patient with Garcia, and he continues to hold his place in the everyday lineup.
Garcia has an 88 wRC+ as a hitter. Fangraphs' offensive rating considers him 12.6 runs below average, and he is 4.6 runs below average as a base runner. He has also cost the White Sox 13.1 runs on defense. So, it comes as no surprised that he is a -0.8 WAR player in 2015. Only two position players in the American League -- teammate Adam LaRoche and Boston’s Pablo Sandoval -- have a lower WAR than Garcia.
Part of the reason for his continued struggles at the plate is that he strikes out almost once every four plate appearances. He hasn’t been unlucky, with a .332 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), but he only makes contact 70.5 percent of the time when he swings, which is third-worst among qualified American League hitters. Jose Iglesias is on the opposite end of the spectrum, making contact over 90 percent of the time, second-highest in the league.
Plate discipline is a major problem for Garcia. His 17.4 percent swinging strike percentage is the highest in the American League. He also has the second-highest swing percentage, 47.7 percent, on balls outside the strike zone. Not much good can come from such an approach.
When he does put the ball in play, Garcia has a disappointing isolated power (ISO) of just .112. That ranks 20th of 22 outfielders in the American League who are on track to qualify for the batting title. The power potential is there, as anyone who has watched him in batting practice can attest, but it has yet to develop in the major leagues.
In the outfield, Garcia has a strong arm and decent speed, and he doesn’t make too many errors. He has 16 assists in the outfield, but that is often a sign that runners like to test his accuracy. He doesn’t get a good jump and takes poor routes to the ball, so his range is lacking. He has been worth -10 defensive runs saved (DRS), and has an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of -6.3. On the plus side, those numbers are much better than they were in 2014.
The Tigers have relied on Torii Hunter, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez to man corner outfield positions since they dealt Garcia to Chicago. They have another vacancy now that Cespedes has moved on, but Detroit does not yet miss what they gave up in that blockbuster deal at the 2013 trade deadline.
At 24, Garcia is still young, and he has just 280 major league games under his belt. He is still inexpensive, earning the major league minimum with a year to go before he is eligible for arbitration. His batting average is up over the previous season, but his power is stagnant and he continues to struggle to make contact at the plate.
Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias made the All-Star team this season with the Tigers, and Jake Peavy helped the Red Sox to win the World Series in 2013. The White Sox have three players from that trade still in the minor leagues, and Garcia performing below replacement level in Chicago. There is still time for Garcia to put all his skills together and become a productive player in the major leagues, but thus far, Little Miggy has been a little bit disappointing.