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Avisail Garcia continues to make a strong case to make his first American League All-Star team, but Monday’s birthday boy isn’t thinking that far into the future.
Garcia, who turned 26 on Monday, notched two hits, drove in three runs and stole a base as the White Sox blasted the Baltimore Orioles, 10-7, in front of 17,665 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Through 60 games — half of how many he played in 2016 — Garcia is hitting .333 with a .921 OPS. His 10 home runs are second on the White Sox and he leads the team with 45 RBIs.
Those are numbers certainly worthy of an All-Star roster spot. So is Garcia already planning his flight to Miami in July?
“No,” Garcia said. “Long season, man.”
That Garcia is even under consideration for the 2017 All-Star Game is improbable given the seemingly-rigid trajectory he was on heading into this season. From 2015-2016, Garcia slashed .252/.308/.374 and averaged 12 home runs and 55 RBIs per year.
Entering Monday, Garcia ranked 12th among American League position players in WAR (2.1) and was in the top 10 in batting average, RBIs and OPS. As of June 6’s most recent American League All-Star balloting update, Garcia had the fifth-most votes among outfielders (479,349), about 40,000 votes behind Boston’s Mookie Betts in fourth and about 75,000 votes shy of Cleveland’s Michael Brantley for the third and final starting spot. All-Star voting ends June 29.
“His approaches have been consistent,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s still seeing the ball very well and controlling the strike zone better. It’s been a good run and hopefully he adds to it as the season progresses.”
Even if Garcia isn’t in Terry Francona’s starting lineup July 11 at Marlins Park, he would seem to be a veritable lock for his first All-Star nod unless his likely-unsustainable .404 batting average on balls in play craters over the next month. The highest BABIP in the last five seasons was .394 (Atlanta’s Chris Johnson in 2013), which suggests that eventually, Garcia won’t see base hits fall in at quite the same rate he’s enjoying now.
But for now, Garcia hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. In the third, he laced a double to center to plate two runs — one of which scored on an error, so Garcia didn’t earn both RBIs — and an inning later, a sharp RBI single brought home two more runs.
“The balls in play for him are productive,” Renteria said, knocking on what he hoped was wood on the White Sox interview room dais. “Where the base on balls might keep a line moving he’s driving in runs and actually driving the ball. His at bats are good. Hopefully it continues, he lays off pitches not in the zone and continue to get the hits.”
Garcia is walking in only 3.7 percent of his at-bats this year, down from between 6 and 7.5 percent from 2014-2016. The aggressiveness has suited him well, allowing him to go into each at-bat with that consistent approach Renteria praised.
“I just try to swing at strikes,” Garcia said. “Swing at strikes and don’t try to do too much, because when I try to do too much nothing happens.”
Garcia hasn’t had an extended run of success like this since he broke through with the Detroit Tigers in 2012. Despite some spurts of early success — like the five hits and three RBIs he had in the 2012 American League Championship Series and encouraging debut with the White Sox in 2013 — most of Garcia’s major league career has been an exercise in dealing with failure.
While he’s only 26, Garcia played in his 469th game Monday night. And he’s using the lessons he learned over the last five years to take a big-picture approach to how well he’s hitting this year — and if that means he’ll join the best players in the game in Miami next month.
“I have more experience right now, I’ve been in the league for a little bit and you just gotta keep working,” Garcia said. “Long season and we have to play the game tomorrow.”