September 10, 2017

Is Avisail Garcia one of the greatest breakout stories in baseball this year, or a player who built a splendid season out of luck, setting up a crash in 2018?

The case against Garcia: He’s batting a white-hot .386 on balls in play, tops in the American League. The league as a whole is batting .300 on balls in play this season, suggesting that Garcia’s performance is an extreme outlier. Meanwhile, the same iffy on-base skills that made him make too many outs earlier in his career (.309, .305, .309, and .307 on-base percentages in 2013-2016) haven’t improved: Garcia’s struck out four times more often than he’s walked this year.

The case for Garcia: Well, normally you’d look for a surge in hard contact to explain a massive run-up in batting average on balls in play. About that…

2016 hard-hit rate: 34.3%

2017 hard-hit rate: 34.3%

OK, but a jump in line drives could also add legitimacy to a batted-ball bonanza. Yeah, thing is…

2015 line-drive rate: 24.5%

2016 line-drive rate: 21.7%

2017 line-drive rate: 20.3%

The White Sox have assembled an exciting collection of young talent as their rebuild starts to gain steam. Just don’t count on Garcia being a big part of that rebuild, unless he shows real skills gains, not just a random BABIP blip.

OK, that’s a lot of negativity for one team. Here, enjoy:

27 Cincinnati Reds (62-82, minus-94, LT: 26)

26 San Diego Padres (65-79, minus-144, LT: 29)

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