Yesterday was interesting at the Phillies Carpenter Complex from a starting pitching perspective. Warming up side by side to start the two A-ball level games against the Pirates in the bullpen between Schmidt and Ashburn Fields was a young, 20- year old left-hander representing the future and an old soon to be 37-year old right-handed journeyman representing the present. The contrast could not have been more stark.
The somewhat portly Aaron Harang is viewed as a stopgap until young pitchers such as young Elniery Garcia can develop. Harang would go on and pitch five innings giving up three runs on seven hits, striking out five against the young A level Pirates. Garcia would pitch three shutout innings on one hit and striking out two.
Garcia is a highly regarded prospect who relies on a late breaking curve ball and a sinker as his out pitches. Baseball Prospectus rated him as the ninth best prospect in the Phillies system after last season and before the big Rollins and Byrd trades for additional starting pitching. Baseball Prospectus’ comments are below:
9. Elniery Garcia
Height/Weight: 6’0” 155 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: 5.79 ERA (4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 K, 2 BB) at Short-Season Williamsport, 2.08 ERA (26 IP, 26 H, 23 K, 4 BB) at complex level GCL
The Tools: 5+ potential FB; 5+ potential CH; 6 potential CB
What Happened in 2014: Garcia handled the complex league competition well, fanning 23 and only issue 3 free passes in 26 innings.
Strengths: Projectable body; fastball has potential to tick up in velocity; presently works 89-92; shows late, arm-side tail; solid feel for snapping off curve with two-plane break; plus potential; loose wrist when dealing changeup; flashes arm-side fade.
Weaknesses: Overall command needs improvement; releases fastball early; changeup has a ways to go to play as a viable offering; curve gets loose and sloppy; crude with level of pitching polish.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: High 4; long/middle reliever
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; 19 years old; complex-level resume;
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: When you’re down to the complex-league level, there are better chances to take in fantasy formats than Garcia.
The Year Ahead: Garcia is an arm who has shown fastball velocity growth over the past couple seasons, with the overall stuff beginning to show progress as well. The left-hander has fairly limited professional experience and is relatively unknown, which on the surface may make him a curious choice for this placement, but there’s a gut feel here. A good showing in either the New York-Penn League or placement in a full-season league will really start to move the stock forward. This is a pitcher with feel for his stuff at an early age. While Garcia is a far from putting his projection in focus, this season is about taking a few more steps forward against better competition.
Major league ETA: 2018
After Garcia finished up his three innings he continued to throw in the bullpen to work on his change up, sinker and curve. Watch Here.
While Harang looks to be the number two starter behind Cole Hamels in the Phillies rotation, Garcia would seem to be slated to be on the Lakewood BluClaws starting staff in the low A, South Atlantic League. Both of them represent symbols of what the state of the Phillies organization is for the 2015 season which is hope for a better future while watching veteran starting pitching at the major league level.
While I was watching Garcia and Harang pitch yesterday, I pulled out my phone and watched another young pitcher make his major league spring training debut, Severino Gonzalez. He was pitching his third and final inning against the Braves over at Disney. He looked strong throwing 90-92 and dropped in his big 12-5 curve at 77 on one occasion. But you could tell he has major league potential though he tired a bit in the inning. Still he pitched three shutout innings.
On Friday the top Phillies 2014 draft pick Aaron Nola makes his major league spring training debut at Bright House Field. Milling around the backstops watching Harange and Garcia pitch yesterday in addition to Nola were other highly prized minor league starting pitcher prospects such as Matt Imhoff, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and Jesse Biddle. Brandon Leibrandt came on after Harang finished up on the mound The talent is there, now it is up to the Phillies to develop it.