Maikel Garcia comes from a talent-rich baseball family as the cousin of former Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. Unlike his cousin Alcides, Garcia put up very good walk rates in the minors, but still didn’t herald much attention as a prospect until he was promoted to Triple-A in 2022. In 40 games at Omaha, he smacked seven home runs, more than he had ever put up in a full season before. If that newfound power was real, he maybe more than a slappy infielder with a good glove.
It was enough for ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel to take notice. He ranked the Venezuelan infielder at #78 on his pre-season prospect list, writing he was a “plus hitter with an excellent approach and a steady glove at shortstop, but below-average in-game power.”
Garcia didn’t exactly show off plus skills with Omaha to start the year, but the Royals promoted him in May anyway, and he quickly showed he belonged. He had the 13th-best season ever by a Royals rookie position player with 1.9 fWAR and his 7.2 percent walk rate was the fourth-best ever by a qualified Royals rookie. He finished third on the team with 38 walks and fourth in steals with 23. For a team that has seen so many rookies struggle initially, it was great to see a player hit the ground running.
Garcia had played just 10 games at third base in the minors, yet made the transition to the hot corner seamlessly at the big league level. He was second among all third basemen in Defensive Runs Above Average and should be a finalist for the Gold Glove at third base in the American League if not the winner. With Bobby Witt Jr. flanking him, Garcia was ninth in all of baseball in Outs Above Average, giving the Royals a dynamic defensive duo on the left side of the infield.
He told Jackson Stone that becoming an outstanding defender at third base was a learning process.
“When I first started playing third base I [committed] a lot of errors because I didn’t move my feet and the ball was coming too hard at me,” Garcia said. “I know guys hit harder here than in the Minor Leagues, so I learned to wait for the ball, not come in.”
The power surge Garcia saw at Triple-A last year didn’t materialize at the big league level, however. He had the third-lowest ISO among all qualified hitters and hit just four home runs. But there were some encouraging signs the 23-year old could develop more power. He was 35th in baseball in average exit velocity and 19th in hard hit rate. He hit just four home runs, but had he played all his games in Cincinnati or Milwaukee, he would have hit 13. He could also benefit from tweaks to his swing to get more elevation. He had one of the lowest launch angles in baseball and the 20th-highest groundball rate.
Overall though, Garcia has already proven himself to be a pretty valuable player who can hit for average, draw some walks, run the bases well, and play excellent defense. He is versatile enough to play all over the infield, and slots in well at the top of the order to set the table for Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino. The Royals have not done a good job churning out players from the farm system in the last few years, but Maikel Garcia is a nice feather in the cap of the international scouting department that should be a part of this starting lineup for years to come.
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