The Yankees purport to print pitching, but their methods for developing arms aren't "one size fits all."
Need proof? Just ask Deivi Garcia. The diminutive right-hander tore through the minors in 2018 and 2019, striking out 87 men in 53.2 innings as a 20-year-old at Double-A that summer. Without a minor-league season the next year (for, uh, pandemic reasons), Garcia was given the bump to the majors despite some Triple-A struggles.
He wasn't a finished product. He also wasn't like everybody else. He was a 5'9" curveball artist tossed into a pennant race without fans in the stands. There were some high-variance outings from Garcia that summer, who posted a 4.98 ERA and surrendered six homers (many of them in one poor start against the tanking Red Sox) before all was said and done.
Many saw the good in him, though. Pedro Martinez even saw the Pedro Martinez in him. But after he allowed a solo shot in the first inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays, the magician vanished. The man who once painted corners like Rembrandt started painting them like Pollock. Garcia walked 68 men in 90.2 minor-league innings in 2021, followed by 32 more in 64 innings last year, sporting ERAs of 6.85 and 6.89.
Prospects come and prospects go, especially on the mound. As special as Garcia had seemed during his ascent, it was far easier to envision him losing his 40-man spot in an offseason shuffle than to foresee him taking the mound at Yankee Stadium again.
Then, something funny happened. Garcia survived the offseason. He was sent to the Scranton bullpen. In a series against the historically poor Oakland A's, the Yankees somehow managed to churn through long men in Games 1 and 2, giving Garcia the chance to close out a series sweep. He didn't play with his food, handling three innings with just two hits and a homer allowed.
Yankees Director of Pitching Sam Briend believes the still-just-24-years-old Garcia will get another crack at the bigs -- this time, probably as a short relief weapon.
Yankees could foresee Deivi Garcia as dominant short reliever
"I think he has the makings of a power reliever," Briend told The Athletic this week. The radar gun backs him up.
While Garcia's walks haven't slowed to a degree the Yankees are comfortable with (21 in his first 26.1 minor-league innings this season, but with a .227 BAA, down from .285 in 2021), his fastball has quickened. It was up 2.6 MPH on average in that three-inning stint compared to where he sat during his 2021 MLB spot start (94.8 to 92.2). If his command improves, those significant ticks could be the difference between being barreled and being baffling.
If Garcia's touching 97 and bending in his trademark curve, he might still be able to make something of his quirky delivery and devilish right arm. That's why the Yankees have held on for so long -- not just because of the joy he once brought, but because of the makeover yet to come.