After a scorching hot start to his major league career, the magic has run out and Robel Garcia has been brought back down to earth by big-league pitching.
The story of Robel Garcia and the Chicago Cubs feels like something out of fiction. One man, who failed to make it in Major League Baseball and instead went to play baseball in Italy, is given one last chance by another team and finally makes it to the Show.
For a while, it appeared as if this would be a storybook ending: Garcia was hammering big league pitching through his first 13 games, managing a .298/.323/.800 slash line and hitting four home runs. Still, in the back of our minds, we all knew that this was the real world and that he would eventually come back down to earth.
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As of late, Garcia has cooled down significantly, dropping to a more realistic .241/.276/.574 and striking out a stunning 26 times in 63 plate appearances (41 percent K rate). This decline was certainly expected as it was only a matter of time before big league pitching figured out his weaknesses.
Perhaps Garcia’s biggest bugaboo has been hitting lefties. Against left-handed pitching, Garcia’s OPS+ plummets to a miserable 86, putting him well below average and making him an easy target for match-ups late in games.
In all reality, this was exactly what the Cubs knew was going to happen. With the struggles of Daniel Descalso, Addison Russell, and, unfortunately, a majority of the offense, going with what was, at the time, the hot hand of Garcia made total sense to galvanize the team.
The hope was that the team could ride Garcia until they could deal for someone else to handle second base. After that, he would pretty much be yet another fun but ultimately expendable minor league player until he proved himself able to adapt and hang with the big boys.
Joe Maddon tapped Garcia to lead off against veteran Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night against St. Louis – an interesting choice given his contact woes. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, hardly what the Cubs needed out of the leadoff spot and making many further question his future role on the roster.
At 26 years old, Garcia is still young and, even if he gets sent down, it’s not impossible to see him make his way back up when he cuts the strikeout rate and can make more consistent contact. The magic may have worn off, but a storybook ending may yet find him with the Chicago Cubs. Just please, for the love of all things holy, don’t bat him leadoff.