No, Deivi Garcia’s subpar spring training numbers really didn’t have much to do with it.
It essentially was a bookkeeping move late last week when the Yankees optioned their top pitching prospect to Double-A Trenton (rosters were frozen when spring training was officially suspended March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the three available spots at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre went to players — Thairo Estrada, Ben Heller and Michael King — with big-league service time).
The bigger picture regarding the 20-year-old righthander is this: Whenever spring training resumes, if it does, Garcia could start the season with Scranton or, a far longer shot, break camp with the big-league club.
Bigger picture still? Though the 5-9, 163-pound Garcia — whom opposing team scouts have compared to Pedro Martinez and Marcus Stroman because of his stature — received plenty of attention as a highly touted prospect, making the rotation out of spring training was always considered a long shot.
Garcia, who started 2019 with high Class A Tampa, struggled in Triple-A after earning a promotion there late last season, going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 11 games (six starts).
And while Garcia had his difficulties before spring training was halted — a 7.36 ERA in three starts — they did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of rival scouts, who have raved about him since his first season of rookie league ball in 2016.
“What’s not to like?” one opposing team talent evaluator said via text.
“Command mostly was the biggest issue I saw [after the promotion to Scranton],” the evaluator continued. “Which isn’t unusual after a guy goes up.”
Another opposing team scout said Garcia’s slider during his climb through the minors was “nasty,” something he saw again in spring training.
The scout added: “As good as that is, I like the curveball more. What I’ve really liked [in his minor league career] is his ability to throw strikes with his secondary stuff in fastball counts.”
Overall last season, Garcia struck out 165 in 111 1/3 innings, allowed only 96 hits and held hitters to a .231 batting average.
In his first experience in big-league camp, the amiable, soft-spoken Garcia accomplished what is hoped for every top prospect. He observed and interacted with and learned from those who already have been in the majors.
“Being here with the rest of the guys is an opportunity that means a lot to me,” Garcia said after one workout. “And my only goal this spring training is to stay healthy, to work hard with the pitching coaches and keep working on my mechanics. The team will make their decisions, and when the opportunity arises [to get to the majors], I know it will come at the right time.”
As for the comparisons to Martinez, a fellow Dominican and one of the game’s all-time greats, Garcia embraces them.
“To be compared to Pedro is something I take a lot of pride in,” he said. “And no, I don't feel intimidated by the comparison, I feel like it’s a great responsibility that I have to assume. It feels good to be compared to Pedro and I hope that someday I can be like him, because he is one of the best pitchers of all time.”
Kyle Higashioka, who caught Garcia a handful of times in spring training between bullpen sessions and games, was impressed last season when he caught him in Triple-A.
“I think he’s got really good stuff,” Higashioka said a few days before spring training was suspended. “He seems a pretty developed, pretty polished pitcher, especially for how young he is. I think that’s why he’s such an exciting prospect. Obviously, he’s risen through the system relatively quickly and there’s definitely a reason for that. I think it’s because he knows how to pitch.”