Comparing Leury Garcia to other White Sox middle infielders

Since Leury Garcia’s name got first thrown around as the asset coming the other way in the Alex Rios trade, White Sox media and fans have tried to learn about and analyze the player.

Often in these cases, player comparisons are thrown around. Sometimes they are accurate, sometimes they aren’t and far too often they are somewhat racist.

Now that Garcia is officially headed to the White Sox and will be assigned to AAA Charlotte, let’s see how he stacks up to a pair of names that have come up frequently in comparison to Garcia: Eduardo Escobar and Carlos Sanchez.

All three players are foreign middle infielders that came up through the minor leagues at young ages and have questions marks/doubts about their offensive abilities. All three have played shortstop, second base and third base. Do the similarities end there?

Escobar is a 24-year-old who was traded to Minnesota in the Francisco Liriano trade in 2012. He is sliding into a utility infield role in the Majors, but his bat hasn’t been good enough to justify giving him regular time.

Sanchez is a 21-year-old who raised his profile with a breakout offensive year last season in High-A and AA. A poor offensive season in Charlotte this season has led to doubts that he may not be able to hit at the Major League level enough to justify giving him regular time either.

Garcia is 22 and has some Major League experience this season with Texas, but again, hitting has been his problem.

If you trust the scouting reports, Garcia is probably the best defender of the three followed by Escobar and Sanchez in that order. Their speed rankings could fall in the same order. Let’s break down their offensive numbers to see how they compare with the bat.

At 17, Garcia made his professional debut in the states and hit .209/.250/.279 in the Arizona Rookie League. Nothing good about that, but he was young. The following year he went to the South Atlantic League and hit an improved .232/.288/.286 in 83 games. Still not good, but he showed an improved contact rate that brought his batting average up and he was still just 18 in a full season league.

Those two seasons represented a head start for Garcia. Both Sanchez and Escobar hit the U.S. at 19 (Sanchez was actually 18 for the first week or so of rookie ball). However, Sanchez and Escobar both quickly got moved up to Low-A. Sanchez played just five games with Bristol and Escobar played six with Great Falls before both landed in Kannapolis. An injury also limited Garcia’s action so none of the three played a full season.

Age 19 season

Name Level Year AVG OBP SLG SO% BB% ISO
Leury Garcia Low-A 2010 .262 .307 .323 14.5 5.9 .061
Eduardo Escobar Low-A 2008 .267 .302 .300 24.4 4.9 .033
Carlos Sanchez Low-A 2011 .288 .341 .345 16.7 5.1 .057

While Sanchez’s overall production was best, the metrics would say maybe Garcia should have had the best year. Of the three, he had the lowest strikeout rate, highest walk rate and most power. Of course, he was repeating the level so maybe that should have been expected.

Age 20 season

Name Level Year AVG OBP SLG SO% BB% ISO
Leury Garcia High-A 2011 .256 .306 .342 20.7 5.8 .086
Eduardo Escobar Low-A 2009 .256 .300 .328 17.7 5.6 .071
Carlos Sanchez High-A/AA/AAA 2012 .323 .378 .403 15.6 7.0 .080

Escobar repeated Low-A and improved across the board, but still wasn’t a standout. Garcia and Sanchez both moved up and showed improved power, but Garcia struggled to keep his strikeout rate in check. Sanchez, meanwhile, added improved discipline to go with better, albeit still limited, power and played in three levels. Still, he showed a higher average than might be expected for his strikeout rate. That’s the best case you can make for him being slightly overrated as a prospect heading into 2013. Considering what’s happening in 2013 it explains a lot.

Age 21 season

Name Level Year AVG OBP SLG SO% BB% ISO
Leury Garcia AA 2012 .292 .337 .398 19.0 5.3 .106
Eduardo Escobar High-A/AA 2010 .277 .316 .393 17.8 5.1 .116
Carlos Sanchez AAA 2013 .245 .294 .302 15.6 6.2 .067

Sanchez’s numbers fall back down to earth despite only minor drops in his walk rate and power. Obviously he’s playing at the highest level of the trio at this age and that’s the tricky part about evaluating his bat at this point. Garcia and Escobar both posted their best offensive seasons and showed respectable power for a defensive-first middle infielder.

Age 22 season

Name Level Year AVG OBP SLG SO% BB% ISO
Leury Garcia AAA 2013 .264 .314 .409 25.5 6.7 .145
Eduardo Escobar AAA 2011 .266 .303 .354 19.4 5.0 .088

This season in AAA, Garcia has shown respectable power and his best walk rate, but an atrocious strikeout rate. That won’t work in the Majors. In 57 MLB PA, Garcia has hit just .192/.236/.231. The power has gone away and the poor contact rate destroyed his batting average. Escobar stayed near his career numbers in his first go at AAA and put up only marginally better numbers in 35 games in 2012. His MLB line in 296 PA is .216/.273/.294. He has started to walk more, but he’s not doing much else.

Garcia has consistently hit for more power than Escobar and Sanchez so that gives his offensive game another dynamic. He’s also struck out the most in the high minors so he may never be able to hit even .250 in the Majors. All three have flashed near-respectable walk rates at times, but not consistently. Sanchez makes the most contact of the three so he should be able to hit for the highest average and for two years running has shown some discipline.

I think Sanchez’s bat still projects the best in the Majors, but none of the three are likely to hit enough to be MLB regulars. As a utility player Garcia’s plus speed and plus arm give him the most versatility as a player who can comfortably play three infield positions and be used as a pinch runner. With that in mind, he probably holds more value to a National League team, but he could be an upgrade over the awful bench players the White Sox have been trotting out in recent seasons.

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