Avisail Garcia is an interesting case, setting career highs nearly across the board in 2017 while even playing 12 games less than 2015.
This biggest outlying stat for Garcia is his .392 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play), which is high for any player, albeit one who does not display blazing speed nor an upper echelon hard hit rate. Garcia certainly has some speed and fared well with a 35.3% hard hit rate, which ranked him 53 of all qualified hitters, but a .392 BABIP takes a good amount of luck.
The last person to achieve a .390+ BABIP was Chris Johnson on 2013 who ended the season at .394. His BABIP the following season, while still very good, dropped to .345.
Avisail Garcia has actually had strong BABIP numbers throughout his career, including a BABIP above .330 in every minor league season. He held a .344 BABIP in 2013 and .320 in 2015. So while the .392 BABIP is far from the norm, we also shouldn’t expect the .309 he held in 2016.
To really define what made 2017 different, we need to dive pretty deep. Reviewing all seasons to understand a bit of the norm, there are three stats that really stand out from all the others – a greatly reduced strikeout rate, an increase in the amount of balls swung at inside the strike zone, and an increase in the percentage of batted balls that were pulled.
The reduced strikeout rate is obviously significant. He dropped his rate by 5.6% from 2016 which created a lot more balls in play. This alone creates the opportunity for more hits and home runs and will have a large impact on batting average. Combined with a strong hard hit rate of 35.3% does help with a better BABIP. The increase in swing percentage inside the zone also plays a key role in the strikeout rate. Garcia was much more aggressive on balls in the strike zone and held a strong contact rate on those swings. The last key stat, plays a significant role in extra base hits. Garcia had the highest pull rate of his career at 42.6%, and Guaranteed Rate Field is only 330 feet down the left field side.
So to sum all of this up, a lot of Avisail Garcia’s stats actually support some of the big gains. Now, he is not going to have a BABIP .392 again, and will almost certainly not bat .330, but he should be better than what he had shown in previous seasons. I think a batting average somewhere around .280-.290 is very reasonable, and he should be able to hang around 20 home runs as long as he stays in a hitter friendly park. So while he should be a solid, and improved player, a .280 hitter with only 20 home runs in today’s baseball world equates to only an average player without any stolen bases or high counting stats.