It is not a secret that the Texas Rangers are doing everything within their power to make themselves into a playoff contender this season. They hired three-time World Series champion Bruce Bochy to be their manager. They brought back Mike Maddux as pitching coach. They hired potentially their future manager Will Venables as associate manager. They signed Jacob Degrom, Andrew Heaney, and Nathan Eovaldi. They traded for Jake Odorizzi and retained Martin Perez on the qualifying offer.
Despite all of this they are relying on several ifs to help them get over the hump and into the playoffs. The first if I want to focus on is Adolis Garcia. El Bombi, as he is known, is someone who will help drive the success or failure of the team this year with his play at the plate and in right-field.
Adolis Garcia is key for the Texas Rangers' season
He can be more patient at the plate and continue to be a reliable run producer. Garcia is entering his third full season with the Rangers and is the starting right-fielder. Garcia is Texas' best outfielder offensively, and among the best defensive right-fielders in all of baseball. He really took his performance up a level in 2022 as he increased his numbers from 2021 in nearly every category except for home runs. He had a higher batting average, more runs scored, more runs-batted-in , more doubles, more triples, and more stolen-bases. It was a better overall season for Garcia.
He was able to do all of this primarily because he was able to take better advantage of fastballs. He was a good fastball hitter in 2021. In 2022 though he made better contact and harder contact off of fastballs. According to his statcast page Garcia whiffed on 27% of fastballs, but when compared to the 32.9% he missed on in 2021 that is a massive improvement. His ability to make better contact led to more hits and more extra base-hits off of fastballs.
One thing Garcia excels at is making hard contact. He is a very strong human being. His hard hit percentage was 86%, meaning that 86% of the time he makes contact the ball exits at 95mph or harder. He doesn't have the size of a Juan Gonzalez or Aaron Judge, but he is very thick and well built at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. He also doesn't sacrifice speed with his strength as he can cover a lot of ground in the outfield and is also superb at stealing bases.
The question has to be asked, if he is this good at offense and defense why is he on the list of ifs. It is unknown where Garcia will hit in Bochy's lineup, but last season he primarily hit third. If Bochy continues to place him third in the lineup and he regresses then that does hurt the depth of the lineup and it will effect how pitchers pitch to Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Nathaniel Lowe.
Garcia is the only outfielder currently on the roster that has proven himself over the span of 162 games. Tavares had a strong six-week stretch in 2022, and it is unknown who will be the starting left-fielder. Garcia will be the one carrying the outfield this season. He is an if because despite what he has done in 2021 and 2022 it is still to be determined if he can continue to do this year-in and year-out and if he can fix the flaws that do exist in his game.
Adolis Garcia needs to cut down on strikeouts
There are a few things he does need to improve upon to take that next step in his career. First, he has to chase less pitches. He was in the 9th percentile of chase percentage in 2022 and 12th percentile in strikeout-percentage. He did cut down on his strikeouts from 2021 to 2022 and he did increase his walks as well. He needs to continue to improve upon that in 2023. I imagine that the scouting report this season will emphasize his strength at hitting fastballs and he will see more breaking balls and off-speed as well.
He had a .199 batting average against breaking balls and a 41.2% whiff rate against them as well. I expect until he proves he can hit them at a better clip that he will be seeing a lot of that at least early in the season. In 2022 he saw sliders 22.3% of the time and curveballs 7.4% of the time. He had a .193 BA against sliders and a .220 BA against curveball. I would expect both of those percentages to jump.
One thing that will change with Texas now trying to win is that opponents will bring their best efforts against the Rangers on a nightly basis. Scouting reports will be more fine-tuned, pitchers will be more focused on batters such as Garcia, and games will be more competitive. The players including Adolis Garcia will have to take it up another level for this team to compete with the Astros and Mariners.
If Garcia can cut down on his strikeouts, be patient at the plate, make contact against breaking balls, and continue to take advantage of mistakes it will go a long way towards helping the Rangers make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.