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With the merry-go-round that is the second base position, Greg Garcia has been a serviceable stopgap for the San Diego Padres. An asset as a starter, a utility player, and off the bench, it feels like the Friars scored when they brought him on board.
Signing Garcia back in November 2018, the San Diego native had spent most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Redbirds and enjoyed a nice career there, batting .248/.351/.348 after his 14-game rookie season.
His first year with the Padres, however, is on pace to be his best one yet. After 70 games, the 2B/3B/SS is batting .263/.347/.403 with a .325 wOBA and 102 wRC+. He’s tied his season-high totals for RBIs (20) and home runs (3), and his .752 OPS is just shy of a career-high.
Sure, those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but he’s provided a breath of fresh air to a relatively unstable and inconsistent position for the Padres. With Luis Urias still in Triple-A El Paso, the Padres have gone with a 2B platoon of Garcia and Ian Kinsler.
So far, Garcia has been the better offensive and defensive option over Kinsler, who’s slashing .217/.275/.370 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs through 74 games. While he’s settling in after a rough start to the year (.133/.209/.241 with 17 strikeouts through April), the two-time Golden Glove winner has been less than stellar during his bout with the Friars.
Defensively, Garcia is considered the league-average 2B with 0 Defensive Runs Saved, and an above-average 2B with a 1.8 UZR. He’s facing a career-low .746 RZR, though, meaning he’s struggled to convert balls hit to his zone into outs.
Take these 2019 defensive stats with a grain of salt, however, as we’re only halfway through the year. Garcia is coming off a 2.0 UZR season with the Cardinals and has a +3 DRS, .848 RZR, and 1.5 UZR in his career.
That said, I’m not writing about Greg Garcia because of his average defense.
No, I’m dedicating this article to him because of his performance in the clutch and in high-leverage situations.
He hits a .263/.370/.447 with runners in scoring position, providing 15 RBIs in 46 plate appearances in the situation. His OBP is at its best (.412) in late and close games, which is when his plate appearance occurs in the seventh inning or later “with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.”
Perhaps the most impressive is his performance during high-leverage situations, hitting .345/.440/.690 when he has the chance to drastically alter the win probability of the game.
This isn’t just a trend, either. Garcia’s career is peppered with great stats in high-leverage and clutch situations. He has a .333 BA against the shift, a 16.2 BB% with men in scoring position, and his career-OBP is at its best with two outs and RISP. He also has a career .374 OBP as a pinch-hitter.
The Padres probably knew all that, though.
To be fair, Greg also has some offensive weaknesses that lie primarily in his power and averages against left-handed pitchers. Garcia has three homers on the year and has never hit more than that in a season.
Two home runs in 2019 have come against finesse pitchers (those in the “bottom third of the league in strikeouts plus walks”, per Baseball-reference), against whom he has his best slash line.
Conversely, he’s struggled against power pitchers (“top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks”). This is also evident in his K% and BB%, which have trended the wrong way.
Against LHPs, Garcia has averaged .176/.270/.256 vs. .264/.368/.368 against righty’s, which might be why Andy Green chooses to play Kinsler in certain situations. He has around the same (albeit low) average against pitchers of both hands.
Yes, Garcia has his weaknesses like every other player (except you Fernando, you’re perfect). Despite these, he currently gives the Padres the best chance for success at 2B and should absolutely be starting over Kinsler.
He’s got the better bat, slightly better defense, and seems to make something happen when we need it the most. Furthermore, while Kinsler had improved since the beginning of the year, he’s slumping again, going 1-for-17 in his last seven games. Garcia, meanwhile, has kept up the heat this summer, going 5-for-17 for a .294 BA in his last seven games.
Garcia in last 28 days: 17 games, .333/.404/.571, .448 BAbip, 14 hits, seven RBIs.