Baseball careers aren't made in 10 days. If a player like Andruw Jones — with all of his accomplishments — is still waiting for a ticket to the Hall of Fame just because of a rather sudden decline in the twilight of his 17-year career, then 10 days is barely the blink of an eye.
But the first 10 days of Adolis García's 2021 season have been one wild ride. He owns a .873 OPS and has hit the first three home runs of his career, all of them being go-ahead blasts. He's displayed a bazooka on his right shoulder, saving a go-ahead run from Baltimore in the 10th inning of last Sunday's win. He's also *robbed* Shohei Ohtani of a home run.
Most of all, he's brought a passion and a spark that has jolted the Texas Rangers into becoming a pretty fun team to watch.
"It's been a blast, honestly," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward. "A lot of these guys have put so much time and effort into their game. Adolis is one of those guys. Last year, I wouldn't say he got overlooked, but he was constantly working, had a great attitude [though] he wasn't getting any opportunity."
After essentially a lost season in 2020 where he logged only seven big league plate appearances, García came into camp this spring hungry to prove he belonged there. He turned in arguably the best performance of any player during spring training, flashing signs of just how great his potential could be.
"In spring training, I said this to [bench coach Don Wakamatsu] sitting next to me, I said, 'He's looks like a superstar. He is built like a superstar. He's playing like a superstar," said Woodward. "Maybe it's just an opportunity this kid needs. We might be onto something."
But Woodward's interest in García predates spring training in 2021. During mini camp in January 2020, García's batting practice stood apart from all others. The sound of the ball off his bat, the muscles popping out of his shirt, the raw athleticism, it all caught the skipper's attention.
"I haven't seen him play a whole lot, but I've been impressed with what I've seen here," manager Chris Woodward said during that mini camp. "I watched him hit, take some ground balls and fly balls, and seen his arm strength. He's a pretty good player.
"He's a good kid, a smart kid, and wants to learn. He's already taken to our hitting coaches. We're trying to clean up some things he's had some issues with in the past, like his chase rate."
García's road up until now has had plenty of jarring bumps and potholes. The 28-year-old outfielder was signed out of Cuba by the St. Louis Cardinals in February 2017 and became the Cardinals' #9 prospect on Baseball America by the end of the season. However, an "uber-aggressive approach" limited his first first taste of the big leagues to a mere 21 games in 2018, and kept him in the minor leagues for all of 2019.
The Rangers took a flier on him when they acquired him for cash in December 2019. After not getting an opportunity in 2020, the Rangers designated him for assignment in January. And despite his three homers, 13 RBI, and 1.170 OPS in the Cactus League, the Rangers opted to go with a 14th pitcher for the Opening Day roster.
It wasn't until Ronald Guzmán went down with a knee injury when García finally got his opportunity.
"He never sulked. Never pouted," Woodward said. "The fact that he was just ready mentally, he wasn't frustrated he didn't make the team. He didn't show frustration. I didn't sense any at all. I just told him to stay ready."
Like a caged bull, he came out of the gates swinging. This time around, though, he brought a refined approach and tweaked mechanics to the plate. He's learned how to control the strike zone better and now has a shorter stroke that allows him to barrel the baseball with more consistency.
What's more, he's also not selling out for power. Power hitters can easily get pull-happy, but García has committed to staying to the middle of the field. Just look at all three home runs.
And, of course, Wednesday's insanely fun three-run jack to center field:
That bat flip is just a snapshot of García's confidence, passion, and energy that have his manager, coaches, and teammates raving. Despite some controversial comments — fair or unfair — about breaking baseball's unwritten rules, Chris Woodward loved watching García's display of emotion as he sent his bat end-over-end out of the batter's box and pounded his chest during his trot around the diamond.
"It's a different style of game," Woodward said. "What I do love is everybody comes from different backgrounds, from all over the world. In different cultures, that's celebrated. He's not trying to show anybody up. He's not trying to disrespect anybody. He's excited hit a home run in the Major Leagues to give his team a chance to win the game. I'm all about that, man."
For the past nine games, Adolis García has lived his dream. He's grabbed hold of his opportunity and become one of the most fun players to watch in the very early stages of the 2021 season.
Nine games is an incredibly small sample size. García could flame out and regress back to a guy that has a hard time staying in the big leagues. He could become a nice Major League player, maybe an occasional starter or solid fourth outfielder.
But what if the Rangers found another late-bloomer? What if the Rangers found that diamond in the rough?
"Honestly, it changes everything," Woodward said. "I've said this guy could be an impact guy. He's still gotta obviously prove it. There's a lot of things he's gonna have to go through and learn. Keep making adjustments. Keep learning the league. They're going to learn him.
"He wants to learn. He wants to grow. He hasn't budged, honestly. I thought the first couple days he was trying to do too much. Maybe because he felt like his opportunity wasn't as long. But now I'm sure he's not going anywhere for a while."