What Happened In 2014: Yimi Garcia has been one of my favorite sleeper prospects for a couple years now, and he ended up a sleeper mainly because his solid-average stuff and role were never enough to generate any significant heat. Still, I thought he could become an MLB middle reliever, and all he’s done is sneakily fly through levels with his fastball with late life and a sharp slider.
In his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2014, Yimi posted a 25.0 K% and a 2.8 BB%, so my faith seemed to be rewarded and he would undoubtedly project as a bullpen staple going forward … except that the downside for the way he pitches finally caught up to him as well. See, one of the negatives of his tight-rotating fastball is that the late life generates a lot of fly balls. Yes, his 2014 was a limited sample and therefore extreme, but it was always a concern and 50% of the balls in play against Garcia were in the air, with just 7.7% of them winding up harmlessly on the infield. Yimi “only” gave up two homers in 10 innings, but he also had a lot of deep fly balls hit against him.
Still, Yimi is a solid bullpen prospect, and his quality performance at every level is reflected by Steamer‘s projection of a 3.25 ERA next year. But his long-term success will come down to adjustments like pitching with better command in the zone, particularly down. He’ll never completely avoid the fly ball or home run, but his ability to mitigate the damage done by those factors, along with keeping up his trend of missing bats with just solid-average stuff, will determine if he has that middle reliever future or not.
2015 Status: Yimi Garcia will make the minimum heading into 2015, and will likely be on the outside looking in for the competition to break camp with the Dodgers, if for no other reason than because he has options. However, now he has experience under his belt, and he figures to be on the shortlist of candidates to get the call should any bullpen member falter.