2016 Dodgers in Review: RP Yimi Garcia

MLB (LA) 8.1 11.4 2.9 0.00 3.24 2.91 5.31 0.2
MiLB (3 levels) 7.1 34.4 10.3 3.68 7.36 not good N/A N/A

What Happened in 2016: Began in the bullpen and was viewed as an important piece, but his season was cut short by multiple injuries.

Yimi Garcia came up through the Dodgers’ farm system and established himself as a solid middle reliever in 2015. He posted a 3.24 ERA, 3.20 FIP and struck out 30.2 percent of the batters he faced. He did get bitten by the home run ball a bit, but that’s the price he paid by pitching up in the zone so frequently.

Mike and Daniel wrote about Garcia 11 days apart during the offseason — regarding two different subjects.

Mike on Garcia’s fastball spin rate:

“And that’s cool. I feel like Garcia (and to a lesser extent, Pedro Baez) gets overlooked in the Dodger bullpen, and he admittedly has to find a way to cut down on that 1.27 HR/9. But there’s no denying that a 68/10 K/BB in 56 innings in his first full season is damn impressive. There were 328 pitchers who threw 50 innings last year, and only 22 had a strikeout rate of 30% or higher — Garcia included. (As were Kenley Jansen & Clayton Kershaw.)

A lot of that goes to that elite spin rate. (For example, I’d previously identified very low spin guys, and Brett Anderson appeared. On fastballs, high spin gets whiffs and flies; low spin gets grounders.)

Chad was talking about this way back in 2013, when Baseball Prospectus first published Trackman’s spin rates from the Arizona Fall League, and Garcia appeared as a standout. (Also on that list: an at-the-time unknown Ken Giles.)”

And Daniel on Garcia’s “hidden regression“:

“It’s also easy to intuit why this happened. Garcia, at his core, is a very predictable pitcher with only one good pitch. If batters know the fastball is coming (and it probably is), they can sit on it. That it might be easily distinguishable from his slider doesn’t help. Garcia tried to counter-adjust by mixing more sliders in, but in doing so he had to go to a more mediocre pitch. Garcia doesn’t have more tools to work with, which is why this small sample is worth worrying about.

This concern is also compounded by Garcia’s other rough edges. The fastball is somewhere between good and elite, but if the strikeouts continue to fall, then his batted ball profile will be more of an issue. Garcia allowed twice as many fly balls as grounders last year, leading to the second-lowest GB:FB ratio in the league. This can work well for a pitcher who strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of pop-ups (Tyler Clippard‘s peak years come to mind) but Garcia hasn’t necessarily shown that he can dependably do that yet. The longball will always be a worry, and Garcia’s eight homers allowed in 2015 didn’t feel out of line with his pitching style. If the strikeouts don’t rebound, more balls will be put in play against him and more will go over the fence.”

Despite what Daniel pointed out, Garcia was still expected to be a key cog in the Dodger bullpen in 2016 (and beyond), but things didn’t go as planned.

Garcia broke camp with the team and recorded just 25 outs before hitting the disabled list on April 23. Seven of his nine outings were of the scoreless variety, but the two games in which he gave up runs, he was charged with blown saves (a garbage statistic). Something clearly wasn’t right with Garcia as his fastball velocity had dipped by more than half a mile per hour and his release points (both horizontal and vertical) were not in line with his 2015 performance.

Turns out, Garcia injured his bicep in his final MLB appearance of 2016 against the Rockies. He was lifted from the game early because of numbness and weakness in his throwing arm on April 22 and he didn’t resume throwing until late-June. He went on a rehab assignment about almost a month later, and that lasted all of 7 1/3 innings before he was shut down again. After it was determined he’d be out for the season, Garcia underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in September — you know, as if the bicep injury wasn’t enough. It was a lost season for the 26-year-old reliever, but if he’s healthy, he still has a place in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

2017 Status: Pre-arb. He’s still recovering from the bicep and knee injuries. Yimi will compete for a bullpen spot (if healthy), but still has an option year remaining if he doesn’t break camp with the team.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.