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Prospects like Luis Garcia are still designed to break your heart

A minor move, but a lesson in prospect stock

You might have missed the news the other day, but there came a bit of an interesting piece when it was announced that the Phillies had designated Luis Garcia for assignment when they had to bring up Dalton Guthrie.

Another piece of news was that Garcia was then claimed by the Tigers.

It’s not the type of news that is going to shatter worlds, tear apart realities, or even excite fanbases to any degree. It’s probably news that is only going to make its way around prospect circles more than it is the fanbase, meaning it’s on the fringes of news anyway.

However, it is still significant in that it can teach people a lesson about prospects, one we all have to learn sooner or later: don’t hug them too tight. They’re destined to break your heart.

Right now, the main focus of prospecting with regards to the Phillies is their trio of studs that should occupy the future front of their rotation - Mick Abel, Griff McGarry and Andrew Painter. They have been excellent all season long and are at least on the cusp of breaking through to the major league level, if not McGarry this year, then certainly at least one of them, maybe two or even all three in 2023. They might be on a slightly accelerated course to the majors, but they’ve also shown that they are near ready. What we’ve learned throughout the years though is that prospects will fizzle. If at least one of these three turns into a solid major league pitcher, that should be considered a win for the organization.

Two and they should consider themselves lucky.

All three? That would an otherwordly feat.

That’s because prospects are all the time failing to fully realize their potential. Whether it be injury, lack of production or some combination of the two, the baseball landscape is littered with examples of players having the ability to become a major league player only to fall short in their goal. The Mike Trouts and Julio Rodriguezs, the ones that come up and succeed immediately, are the exceptions. The Mickey Moniaks are more often the rule.

People love prospects, too! While a fanbase can get a jolt of excitement from a big free agent signing to help the on field product immediately, there is something to seeing a player that their very own team drafted and developed make his journey through the minor leagues and excel at each level. It helps drive the future, being able to dream on what might be to come. It helps drive trade talk, thinking what a player’s future value could the big league acquire that one extra pitcher to help plug the leaks in the rotation. Look up any message board of a team in July and you are bound to see heated discussions about why the team should not be trading Mick Abel for Luis Castillo.

In the case of Luis Garcia, the team may have missed the boat a bit on dealing him, hugging their prospects just a bit too tight. He was always rather well regarded by the prospecting community. In Baseball Prospectus’ yearly rankings of teams’ top ten prospects, Garcia has been included in the Phillies’ version of the list each year since 2019. The reports were rather good each year as well.


Not that Luis Garcia of the Phillies, or that Luis Garcia the shortstop prospect, but he’s arguably the best of the Luises Garcia...[i]f it is a plus hit tool, the Phillies could have a top-of-the-order tablesetter and a Wilson Pickit at the 6. If it doesn’t, the glove and speed could still propel Garcia to the majors in a complementary role.


We’re not going to sugarcoat this: it was a rough season for Garcia. Playing the entire season at age-18, he jumped from complex ball all the way to full-season and he struggled badly...Surviving as an 18-year-old in full-season ball is, itself, an accomplishment. Garcia showed plus barrel control and a general feel for hitting even while not actually hitting much. There was a touch of bat speed on both sides, enough to project out that he’s probably not going to be overmatched forever. He has keen defensive instincts and actions at the six spot and is likely to stay there or excel somewhere else on the dirt. It’ll take some time, but there are still the makings of a regular shortstop here despite the ugly topline.


Garcia was likely headed to a Low-A repeat engagement, and coming off a dreadful season is the worst time for him to lose developmental reps. We heard he looked stronger at instructs, and given that he’s going to play the entire 2021 season at 20, there’s still time.


Repeating a level can be seen as a black mark on one’s prospect profile. For García though, it was a pleasant reset. Perfectly age appropriate for A-ball the second time around as a 20-year-old, he erased the unpleasant reports from his first pass at the level as a teenager in 2019. That was an extremely aggressive assignment, and while García flashed some strong defensive tools and a bit of bat-to-ball skills, he simply wasn’t physically ready to see that level of pitching night in and night out. He has potential average game power now, with some whippy bat speed. He still struggled a bit with his contact profile, but he’s shown more at the plate and remains a strong up the middle defender.

These are not exactly glowing reports, but they’re also reports that showed Garcia had trade value, significant if the deal included other players. It’s also clear that the missed pandemic season did a world of hurt to someone like Luis Garcia. Coming off the 2019 season in which he was pretty overmatched in a full season assignment, Garcia really needed that year to get his bearing straight and back on the right developmental track.

There’s also the possibility that the team could have dealt him in order to help strengthen the major league roster. With Bryson Stott looming in the minors to get to the majors faster, it had always looked like the Phillies could have used Garcia as trade bait since he was still fairly well regarded by those in the prospect community. Instead, the team held him close, choosing rather to try and see what he had in their own system rather that deal him to another.

Were they wrong in doing so?

At this point, it looks like they were. We’ll never know what kind of deals were out there that included Garcia, both solo and part of a package, but if there was a deal to be made, it looks like they should have dealt him rather than see that he simply wasn’t that good. As we judge this notion with 20/20 hindsight, we have to remember that there are two things that come into play. First, as nice as those reports are that you see above, there was really no season in which Garcia’s numbers were that good to back them up. One doesn’t want to become guilty of scouting the numbers, but at some point in a player’s minor league career, the numbers have to back up the scouting report. Second, as Garcia was moving through the system, the team wasn’t really in a position to be moving players out of said system thanks to years of poor drafting and developing. Hoarding as much talent as possible, no matter the production, was probably the wiser play at the time since the major league club didn’t have much there. The trade for J.T. Realmuto and signing of Bryce Harper signaled that they were ready to try and compete for division titles, meaning they should have been shopping talent then, but by then, it started to look like Garcia had plateaued. His trade value had dropped to, by now, zero.

It doesn’t help that he was beset with injuries, curbing whatever was left of his development time, but the team had to make a roster decision this year. Needing to bring Dalton Guthrie to the majors to help now, they made the choice to designate Garcia and now he is free to continue his quest to make the majors in Detroit.

It’s always a sad story when the players we love as prospects don’t pan out. There will always be something satisfying about a homegrown talent helping the big league team. With Luis Garcia, it’s just another tough lesson that we have to learn when looking at the farm system. They’re going to break your heart.