Image credit: Jose Garcia (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Reds shortstop Jose Garcia is off to a hot start this spring. The Reds No. 6 prospect has three home runs in seven games in the Cactus League and is 5-for-12 overall.
More important than the statistics is the impression he’s making on the Reds’ coaching staff.
“He’s fun to watch,” Reds manager David Bell said last week after Garcia homered twice in a game against the Angels. “He’s a talented young player.”
Garcia, 21, led the high Class A Florida State League with 46 extra-base hits last season while showcasing soft hands, quick feet and a plus arm defensively at shortstop.
While a jump straight from high Class A to the majors is extremely unlikely, the Reds are giving him an extended look against big leaguers in spring training. He’s started three times in the last week.
“We’re going to make sure to get him some playing time this spring,” Bell said. “It will be a good experience for him.”
NICK MADRIGAL’S CEILING
Scouts watching Nick Madrigal this spring have begun to question the White Sox second baseman’s ceiling, with even the most optimistic evaluators seeing him as more of a solid regular than an all-star.
“I’m not betting against him, but you probably are getting a David Fletcher-type guy that only plays second base,” one high-level evaluator said. “He’s that guy you either love him or you don’t.”
The comparison to Fletcher, the Angels utilityman, has increasingly gained traction among Cactus League observers. Both are sub-5-foot-10 infielders, posted low-end average exit velocities in 2019 (Madrigal: 85 mph, Fletcher: 84 mph) and rarely swing and miss.
Fletcher had the lowest swinging strike rate (3.2 percent) in the majors last year. Madrigal had the lowest swinging strike rate (2.2 percent) in the minors.
One notable difference is Fletcher hits the ball in the air more. Fletcher has averaged 1.37 ground balls for every fly ball over the course of his career in the majors and minors, according to FanGraphs. Madrigal has averaged 2.43 ground balls for every fly ball in the minors.
MICHAEL GROVE GETS A BOOST
Dodgers officials are buzzing about righthander Michael Grove on the backfields at Camelback Ranch. Grove, the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2018, is up to 97 mph with his fastball while showing increased bite on his breaking ball.
Grove, 23, had Tommy John surgery in college at West Virginia and was still rehabbing when the Dodgers drafted him. He returned to the mound last year and sat 89-93 mph at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga early before bumping up to 92-95 mph in his final few starts.
Now in his second year removed from surgery, Grove’s stuff has ticked up so much that one Dodgers’ front office official predicted he will be the club’s top pitching prospect at this time next year.
The Dodgers also have seen a velocity bump from lefthander Robinson Ortiz. Previously a touch-and-feel lefty, the 20-year-old Dominican attended a Dodgers delivery camp in the offseason and has begun reaching the upper 90s for the first time on the backfields.
CORONAVIRUS ALTERS TEAM USA PLANS
USA Baseball is watching and waiting to see how the coronavirus outbreak will affect Team USA this summer.
Team USA is hosting the Americas Olympic Qualifier later this month. The winner earns a bid to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while the second- and third-place finishers advance to a final global qualifier in Taiwan.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation already pushed back the Taiwan qualifier from April to June in response to the coronavirus threat. USA Baseball is adapting its roster plans in case Team USA doesn’t win the Americas qualifier and has to play in the final global qualifier in Taiwan.
“I personally, and USA Baseball as a federation, are supportive of that decision (to postpone the qualifier) and we’ll wait to see what it looks like moving forward,” USA Baseball executive director and CEO Paul Seiler said. “If we have to participate in the June event, our approach would be if we had to put a team together…this would be your Olympic team.”
Previously, Team USA has changed its roster between qualifying events.
“If we have to build a team for June, it would be with a strong focus on this being our Olympic team as well,” Seiler said. “Ideally you go, you qualify, players come back and play in the minor leagues for a month and we go back to Tokyo with the same team.”
Taiwan had 41 confirmed cases of the coronavirus through Wednesday morning, according to CNN.
The Tokyo Olympics are currently scheduled to take place July 24-Aug. 9 as planned. Japan’s Olympic minister said Tuesday the contract to hold the Olympic Games in Japan only stipulates that the games be held in 2020, allowing for a potential postponement to later in the year.
Japan has had 991 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 12 deaths, according to CNN.