A bit over half way through the season, I was covering a game at Nationals Park. Between innings, when the team does their Down on the Farm Report, they teased Christian Garcia’s minor league numbers. I knew of Garcia but didn’t really know his story or his stuff terribly well, so I did some reading and looked at some stats. The numbers almost looked like typos. They were that good.
In 45 games between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this season, he posted an 0.86 ERA in 52.1 innings. He struck out an incredible 11.4 batters per nine innings with an 0.917 WHIP. Garcia had shown promise when he was a Yankees farmhand, but two Tommy John surgeries fueled his release. The Nats, as they often do with pitchers, picked him up as a reclamation project. That’s gone pretty well.
It’s certainly a small sample size for Garcia’s MLB experience, but it's been impressive nonetheless. He has thrown six innings in seven games since being called up with expanded rosters in early September. He’s walked just two batters, struck out seven, and allowed just four hits. The stats tell one story, and the stuff tells a similar one.
Garcia has a live arm with a fastball velocity that averages over 95 mph, and it’s a pitch that moves. He also has a devastating change up that averages about 9 mph slower than his fastball. It dives down and away from lefties, similar to that of Stephen Strasburg’s, which is a lofty comparison. But boy... if you haven’t seen his curveball yet... It dives out of the zone before you know what happened. Here’s a GIF of his curve against Daniel Murphy, gotten from FanGraphs.
All that said, does he have a chance to make the postseason roster after only being called up on September 3 for the first time in his professional career? Not only is there a chance, it’s likely. The Nats will likely go with a four-man rotation for the playoffs, as most teams do because of the extra rest you get in a postseason schedule. This will open up another roster spot that the Nats could use to solidify the back end of their bullpen.
Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen have done a nice job locking down the back end, but Garcia can give you a big strikeout (as his 11.4 K/9 shows) in a pinch and pitch in a seventh inning hold situation, especially with Sean Burnett’s recent struggles following his elbow inflammation. When I put together my postseason roster predictions later this season, you better believe that Garcia’s name will be on it.