In an alternate universe where Larry Greene Jr. and Anthony Hewitt are competing for MVP awards, Jesse Biddle is a consistent 20 game winner and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is Cuba’s answer to Hideo Nomo, Luis Garcia is the crowning glory of the Amaro-era Phillies’ unmatched genius for identifying and cultivating baseball talent. The organization signed Garcia in March 2013 after a tryout that followed several years in which the Dominican native had been out of baseball, working as a barber and a mover among other odd jobs. He blitzed through three minor league levels to reach the majors that July. Those genius Philly scouts and coaches find big-league talent everywhere!
Of course, a less imaginative but more discerning observer might note that teams with stronger developmental pipelines might not need to seek ballplayers from moving trucks or hair salons. And to be fair, while Garcia’s been decent enough, his major league performance thus far hasn’t merited the Disney treatment. Through 112 innings, Garcia has a 3.94 ERA (4.39 FIP) with just under eight strikeouts and six walks per nine innings.
For what it’s worth, 2015 was Garcia’s first full season in the majors, and pretty clearly his best: 3.51 ERA (3.69 FIP), 8.5 K/9, 5 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9. Baseball-Reference deemed his contributions worth exactly one Win Above Replacement, which for the $509,000 he earned this past year is pretty damn good value. A middle reliever at the start of the season, Garcia became the Phillies’ setup man after the Jonathan Papelbon trade (blessed be its memory) moved Ken Giles into the closer role. The higher leverage work didn’t seem to faze Garcia: in 45 games before his first eighth-inning appearance on July 28, he pitched to a 3.50 ERA, almost identical to his 3.52 mark over 27 additional appearances. If anything, his .378 BABIP suggests he might have been a little unlucky in the second half of the season.
Interesting backstory aside, Garcia is a pretty conventional power reliever with a good-not-great fastball/slider arsenal and fair to poor command. Heading into his age-29 season with two more years before he’s arbitration-eligible, Garcia is one of about a half dozen to a dozen Phillies who may or may not be around when the team next rises into relevance. If you figure the Phillies have at least one, probably two more years before they matter again, the question becomes whether you want an arb-eligible Garcia, age 31, as part of the bullpen in 2018. Considering the many arms coming up behind him, including all those who will get crowded out for rotation spots, and the general fungibility of relief pitchers, it’s not exceptionally promising. But it still beats cutting hair.