May 27, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Texas Rangers right fielder Alex Rios (51) hits a single in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Leury Garcia (28) at bat during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum. Oakland won 11-0. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Leury Garcia: Leury turned 23 right before the 2014 season began and got the chance to start the season with the White Sox following a strong spring (.306 BA, .405 OBP). However, due to his small size (5’8” 170lbs.) and relatively modest batting numbers through the minors I do not believe Garcia is or will ever be considered a top prospect with a high ceiling.
Still, Garcia has the chance to be a truly productive member of any team given his extremely diverse skill set. Already this year Leury has played second base, third base, multiple outfield spots, (including center) and even pitched an inning for the Sox.
Garcia’s modest offensive numbers in the minors (.261/.310/.346) do not suggest he could translate to the majors as a regular, but his more recent campaigns suggest he improved as he ascended. While at AA in 2012 Leury owned a .292/.337/.398 slash line to go along with 31 stolen bases and almost as many triples (11) as doubles (12). In AAA Leury had a slightly tougher time hitting but managed to keep his OPS above the .700 mark.
Given their similar sizes I might put Garcia’s ceiling around that of Chone Figgins. Figgins, who experienced most of his success with the Angels lived on his speed and versatility to be a quality player and active contributor to his team. Figgins had more impressive offensive numbers than Garcia throughout the minors but took longer to reach the majors as he finally got his first extended look as a 25 year old (two years later than Garcia). So to juxtapose each players respective ascents, Garcia still has a few years to develop on the offensive end.
Today, Garcia is still on the White Sox Major League roster but currently in playing a modest amount (46 PA’s). His limited role almost surely has contributed to his lack of production too, as his OPS is currently an anemic .548. The White Sox recently terminated their contract with Jeff Keppinger (a super-utility sort of player) though so Garcia might inherit more at bats as a result; given more chances I think Leury is a decent bet to shake off some of the rust and perform.
Verdict: I believe the Rangers made a very good deadline trade in this case. On one hand, Leury Garcia was expendable given his position: Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, and Rougned Odor all fit ahead of him on the depth chart last year thereby making his greatest value that of a trade piece.
The return on the deal has also paid off. Alex Rios seems to have inherited a bad rep after signing a 68 million dollar deal with the Blue Jays following a breakout season that he really has never replicated consistently. Still, he has settled in to become a quality Major League player and adds credibility to the Rangers lineup.
As a right fielder Rios has a more diverse skill set than his predecessor Nelson Cruz (despite Cruz’s obvious hot start) given his speed, defense, and greater propensity to hit for average. Regardless of Nelson’s season in Baltimore, Alex has helped carry the Rangers’ offense in the wake of an unproductive Prince Fielder and a plethora of injuries (where Fielder also now applies). As David Cash writes, Rios has been especially hot of late, giving the Rangers a serious boost in their last couple series’ allowing them to climb back to the .500 mark. At this point, I think Rios is pretty widely underrated, but has entrenched himself in the middle of the Rangers lineup and will be an integral part to whatever playoff push the Rangers eventually mount.