As the Kansas City Royals' 2022 season winds down at the big-league level, their Triple-A affiliate is wrapping up its minor league season soon as well. The Storm Chasers have multiple players who could be valuable pieces on the MLB club as soon as next year, and shortstop Maikel Garcia is one of them.
Garcia, who spent time with the Royals earlier this season, made a solid first impression during his nine games as a member of the club. In those contests, he hit .318 with a 102 wRC+ and drove in two runs. Some uncharacteristic defensive mistakes put a damper on the optics of his experience overall, yet Garcia looked like he belonged nonetheless. A 23-plate appearance sample size isn't much to go on, but it's far better than him looking completely overwhelmed at the plate.
This year, in addition to his time in Triple-A, Garcia played 78 games with the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals and slashed .291/.369/.409 with a 104 wRC+, an 11.1% walk rate and a very solid 16.3% strikeout rate. He proved to be too advanced for that level of pitching, prompting a promotion to Omaha effective in early August. Since that promotion, Garcia has shown the Royals something similar to what they could be looking at as their long-term shortstop.
In the first 16 games since his promotion, Garcia was tapping into a ton of power. In addition to hitting .274, he posted a scorching .534 SLG and logged nine extra-base hits (five home runs and four doubles) during that span. That was good for a 118 wRC+, despite him walking at just a 5.2% clip and seeing his strikeout rate jump all the way to just under 30%. This didn't quite resemble the player Garcia had been up until that point, yet it still worked. Since then, he's still been good but has also been playing true(er) to himself.
Over the next 17 games entering Saturday's play, Garcia's .308/.378/.446 slash, combined with an .825 OPS, contributes to a 121 wRC+. His power numbers are down, as evidenced by his one home run and .138 ISO, yet he still has six doubles and has also swiped seven bags. Most importantly, Garcia's walk rate in that 17-game stretch is 9.3% and he's striking out 18.7% of the time.
For the sake of him becoming an everyday player in the major leagues one day, the Royals will likely take the second version of Garcia over the first one. With that said, the fact that he's flashed some impressive pop since getting promoted does add fuel to the argument that he has more power potential than many believe. MLB Pipeline profiles Kansas City's No. 6 prospect as having 35-grade power, which pales in comparison to his 55-grade hit, run and arm tools and his 60-grade field tool. Heading into the 2023 campaign, regardless of where he begins, that power number may be raised a bit or at least be better contextualized in his write-up.
With Bobby Witt Jr. struggling to play defense at shortstop, Adalberto Mondesi seemingly always being injured and Nicky Lopez's production at the plate coming crashing back down to earth, there doesn't appear to be a great deal blocking Garcia from taking over at short sometime in 2023. He's good enough to make that transition very early in the year, although it remains to be seen exactly what the Royals have planned for him. Once he gets that long-term call-up, though, his profile suggests that he'll be ready.
Prospects with the ability to hit for contact, defend and run better than average and possibly have some raw power potential don't grow on trees. Garcia isn't perfect but at 22 years young, he's flashing plenty of potential to close out Omaha's season.