The Yankees farm system is currently built upon a strong foundation of highly-touted right-handed starting pitching. Every scout and talent evaluator that I’ve spoken to in recent weeks carries that sentiment. Almost all of them are in agreement that 20-year old Trenton starter Deivi Garcia is arguably the brightest of the bunch with a strong chance to pitch in the Bronx as quickly as this season.
When the campaign began back in April, Garcia was the youngest pitcher in the Florida State League (19.9). After posting a 16.8 K/9 rate (33 K/17.2 IP) over four dominating starts for High-A Tampa, the Dominican product was promoted to Trenton on April 29.
Now the youngest pitcher at the Double-A level after turning 20 on May 19, Garcia has continued rolling while developing on the fly at the upper levels. In six starts for the Thunder, Garcia has already fanned 46 in 30 1/3 innings while limiting the opposition to a .204 batting average. As Baseball America recently noted on their prospect hot sheet, Garcia features a strikeout rate of just under 16 batters per nine innings, which is the highest among all qualified minor leaguers.
Garcia carries himself with a quiet demeanor off of the field. Standing at 5-feet-9 and 163 pounds, you probably wouldn’t view him on the street as being a potential dominant starting pitcher based on his stature, but his pure stuff qualifies as nothing short of electric.
In his repertoire, the young hurler features a fastball that usually sits 93-96 MPH with a curveball that has generated elite spin rates and a change-up that has become very reliable. This season Garcia has worked diligently on adding a slider into his arsenal and he feels like it is going to be an essential weapon for him moving forward.
“The slider works for me a lot,” admitted Garcia through translator Raul Dominguez. “I’ve been trying to use it more, and I like it. I think that it can be big for me. I think that it’s imperative to have a fourth pitch.”
Garcia added, “It’s another object that I have, and the hitters have to think about more than just three pitches now. It’s going to be a bit more difficult for them and a bit easier on me to come with four pitches.”
Despite his strong initial performance for Trenton, Garcia has struggled with sporadic command and losing sharpness late in a handful of outings
Garcia tossed five shutout innings against Binghamton on Tuesday night before retiring the first two batters in the sixth. Holding a two-run lead at the time, the righty then issued two walks and a single to load the bases before surrendering a game-tying base hit. It’s all part of the swift learning curve that comes with pitching in the upper levels.
“He needs to get better,” Osborn admitted. “There have been a handful of starts where he has struggled, and guys have gotten to him, whether it was with walks or hits. He’s got to continue to improve his command and figure out how to put guys away with pitches other than his heater.”
Osborn added, “That’s something that he’s been able to rely on up to this point. He still can do it, but he’s going to need to be able to use that curveball, the new slider, and the change-up as well.”
A heavier emphasis is placed on pitchability in the upper levels. As a pitcher advances in the system, the discipline and pitch recognition of opposing hitters improves with an often smaller strike zone. This forces a pitcher to study tendencies a bit more meticulously and attack in a way that they may not have earlier in their development.
“I can see that the hitters compete better here,” said Garcia. “They don’t swing at a lot of pitches like they do in High-A. Here they select their pitches better; they’re better hitters.”
“As you move up levels the hitters make adjustments much faster,” Osborn explained. “If you get a guy out one way, that may not necessarily work the next time around. That’s when those other pitches are going to come into play.”
Osborn added, “They see a video on Deivi and see that he likes to elevate his heater and that he’s had success with it. He may get them with it in the first or second at-bat because they haven’t seen him yet. In that third or fourth at-bat, they may be able to adjust and get to it. That’s the game within the game. As a starting pitcher, no matter how good you are or how good your stuff is, you’re going to need more than just one or two pitches.”
After walking just 20 batters in 74 innings in 2018 (2.4 BB/9), Garcia has posted a 4.5 BB/9 at Trenton.
“I need to be more consistent with all of my pitches,” Garcia said. “I need to keep improving my command and stay aggressive. I don’t feel like the big leagues are very far away. I am very close. When I started playing baseball, I was always around older guys, so being younger in any league is normal for me. I want to continue to improve.”