What to Make of Yankees' Decision to Demote Pitching Prospect Deivi Garcia

Max Goodman

The Yankees may not have played a game on Thursday – with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping all MLB teams off the field on what would have been Opening Day – but there was still baseball-related news.

New York revealed the club optioned infielder Thairo Estrada, as well as right-handers Ben Heller and Michael King, to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

The roster move that garnered more attention however was the demotion of highly-touted pitching prospect Deivi Garcia down to Double-A Trenton. 

At first glance, the latter move comes as a bit of a surprise. Garcia was the Yankees top pitching prospect last year and is currently the franchise's second-rated hurler in the farm system behind righty Clarke Schmidt (per MLB Pipeline).

The 20-year-old – despite his youth and inexperience – has been a candidate all spring to make the jump to the big-league level for the first time and potentially solidify New York's vacant fifth rotation spot.

One possible explanation for the demotion is Garcia's play in Grapefruit League contests – his first real taste of facing Major League hitters.

Across three starts this spring, Garcia finished with an 0-2 record and a 7.36 ERA. Certainly not what New York was hoping for, especially when you compare his performance in a small sample to size to that of Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and Schmidt – other candidates for a rotation spot this season that shined this spring. 

Nonetheless, sending Garcia down to Double-A during this ongoing coronavirus-induced hiatus is nothing more than a formality. Garcia – as well as the three Yankees heading to the club's Triple-A affiliate – are all members of the 40-man roster. Therefore, they are still eligible to be called up to the Majors moving forward. 

Besides, although Garcia wasn't lights out this spring statistically, he still showed glimpses of why he is ranked so high among the Yankees best prospects. 

In 7 1/3 innings pitched this spring, the right-hander listed at 5-foot-9 struck out eight batters. Sure, seven runs came across to score – hence, the escalated ERA – but he only surrendered six hits in that span. Opponents hit just .214 against Garcia as the right-hander's swing-and-miss stuff was on full display.

Deivi Garcia pitching spring training
Deivi Garcia toeing the rubber against the Orioles at George M. Steinbrenner FieldKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Further, a source told Andy Martino of SNY that Garcia's performance this spring had "zero" influence on the decision to option the phenom to Double-A. 

Martino's source confirmed that the demotion doesn't preclude Garcia from starting the season with the Yankees either, explaining it was nothing more than a formality. With only three available spots in Triple-A, the players with the most big-league time went to the higher minor-league affiliate on a basis of seniority.

Moving forward, if and when the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates and MLB is able to return to its regularly scheduled programming, expect big-league rosters to be expanded. Playing more contests in less time – as the league and players both want to play as many games as possible before any sort of postseason this fall – would mean less days off and possibly an increase in doubleheaders. The only way to accommodate to those scheduling adjustments is to add more depth for each team. 

Additional roster spots opens the door for players like Garcia – regardless of what level they are demoted to during this hiatus – to get the call up to the show and contribute.

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