Deivi Garcia flashed big-time potential for the Yankees last season, but placing too much on his shoulders in 2021 could be a big mistake.
The Yankees face several big questions about their starting rotation heading into 2021. How much faith to place in Deivi Garcia is arguably the most complicated query Brian Cashman and his front office must face. He has the talent to be an integral part of the Yankees’ corp for years to come, but he might not be ready for a full-time spot in the rotation at the tender age of 22.
It’s important for Yankees fans to remember that Garcia only pitched 34.1 innings of regular season baseball last season. Several of his starts were real bright spots for New York during their truncated regular season. Even so, his overall numbers on the year were pretty pedestrian. His 4.98 ERA in six starts did not make him anything more than a below-average starter on the whole.
That doesn’t mean Yankees fans shouldn’t be excited about Garcia’s potential. He wasn’t fazed by the pressure of pitching in the majors. His fastball flummoxed quality major league hitters despite not having elite velocity. There were several starts where he flashed the ability to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in relatively short order.
What will Deivi Garcia’s role be for the Yankees in 2021?
The odds strongly favor Garica breaking Spring Training with a spot in the regular rotation. The Yankees will need to be extremely careful with his workload over the regular season if they want to count on him in the playoffs. His arm isn’t built up enough to carry a full workload over something approaching a 162-game campaign. Garcia may never have the body type to be a 200+ inning workhorse at the major league level.
Despite those concerns, the Yankees don’t have a ton of established options after ace Gerrit Cole. James Paxton and J.A. Happ will almost certainly depart via free agency. Luis Severino won’t be ready to go until July at the earliest after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The door is open for Masahiro Tanaka to return but that’s far from a certainty. That leaves Cole and Jordan Montgomery as the only two certain returnees from last season’s rotation.
Add all that up and it means both Garcia and fellow prospect Clarke Schmidt will have every chance to factor into the starting rotation on Opening Day. Garcia gets a leg up because he was much better in 2020.
How good can Garcia be next season?
Garcia was slightly better than replacement with a WAR of 0.3 last year. The Yankees shouldn’t expect stardom from him in 2021, but they can reasonably project him to take a solid step forward in his development.
In a perfect world, Garcia can pitch like a No. 3 starter no matter where he slots in the regular-season rotation. He has the right combination of poise and talent to perform at that level. The Yankees would love to see him make a full season’s worth of starts with an ERA somewhere in the mid-4s. He will inevitably suffer from inconsistency as he learns major league hitters, but the overall numbers just need to improve from what he gave the team in his rookie season.
What’s the downside for Garcia?
Unfortunately for Yankees brass, the downside for Garcia in 2021 is pretty severe. There’s an obvious risk of throwing him too many innings at such a young age. It might be prudent for the team to consider pairing him with another pitcher like Severino or Schmidt to make one full starter in their full-season rotation.
One other thing the front office must watch closely is whether or not Garcia can replicate his low walk rate from a season ago. He only issued six free passes in 34+ innings during the regular season. Control was an issue for him during some of his minor league stints. He needs to keep his walk rate down if he wants his ERA to follow suit.
So what will Garcia give the Yankees in 2021?
This season will most likely be a consolidation year of sorts for Garcia. If he can maintain last year’s effectiveness while drastically increasing his workload then the Yankees should consider it a big win. Of course, staying healthy over the full campaign is also a big goal for both Garcia and the organization.
In the end, Garcia should manage to eat up over 100 innings as a starter with an ERA around 4.50. Anything more than that would be a major boost for a team that’s currently short on starting pitching. Expecting anything more is a dangerous risk for a franchise with legitimate World Series aspirations.