OAKLAND -- Having already set a franchise record with 12 first basemen used this season, it’s clear the A’s have yet to find a long-term solution at the position. That’s what makes this final stretch of games so critical for rookie Dermis Garcia.
Over the past month, Garcia has stabilized what was once a carousel of players at first by receiving the bulk of playing time at the spot. In turn, he has showcased that elite power that drew raves from scouts as a teenager, Friday’s 9-2 loss to the Mets at the Coliseum included, as the first baseman crushed a majestic solo home run against an otherwise stingy Chris Bassitt.
Hitless through his first two at-bats, Garcia said he’d studied Bassitt throughout the game and decided the sinker was his best bet to do damage. Sure enough, he went to the plate in the eighth inning, got a first-pitch sinker over the middle and pounced for an impressive blast he smacked 109.5 mph off the bat and sent halfway up the left-field bleachers a Statcast-projected 426 feet, marking by far the hardest and farthest batted ball from either team on the night.
More importantly for Garcia, it provided a boost of confidence. Prior to the homer, he’d collected just one hit over his previous 22 at-bats.
“It feels good,” Garcia said in Spanish. “I was in a bit of a slump, but I kept battling and working hard. Baseball is like that. You have good days and bad days. But the mentality remains the same.”
Though his “can’t-miss" label after signing with the Yankees as MLB’s top-rated international prospect back in 2014 has worn off, Garcia, 24, is still young enough to carry intrigue over his potential. With Friday’s long ball -- his fifth in his last 18 games -- Garcia is doing his best to leave a lasting impression heading into the offseason as the A’s evaluate which of the many inexperienced players on the roster fit into their 2023 plans.
“The kid’s been great,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said of Garcia. “He’s enthusiastic. He’s got a lot of energy. You can tell how he really is enjoying being here and a part of this group. He works hard every day. I think his defense has improved. In terms of at-bats, they’ve been pretty consistent. Is there some swing-and-miss there? Yes. But there’s also some slug, and we saw that again tonight.”
Having clobbered 31 homers playing in the Yankees’ organization at Double-A Somerset last year, it took Garcia a while for the power to show up in what is his first year with Oakland this season, going homerless in his first 10 Major League games. Now that the power has picked up, Garcia, whose offensive profile has drawn comparisons to slugger Franmil Reyes from members of the A’s front office, will have a chance to carve out an even bigger role with the club beyond 2022.
“My goal over these final weeks is to take every opportunity and do my best to keep impressing,” Garcia said. “Just keep working hard and take advantage.”
Stymied over eight impressive innings by their former ace in Bassitt, the A’s won’t get any breaks as the weekend progresses. In line to round out the three-game series on the mound for New York is a pair of star pitchers in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer.
While the task is daunting for an A’s squad that ranks at the bottom of baseball in most offensive categories, it’s also something Kotsay views as a valuable experience for his team to gauge itself against a playoff team with serious World Series aspirations.
“I think our guys should be really excited about this opportunity to go up against the best,” Kotsay said. “Bassitt, deGrom and Scherzer. For me, it couldn’t be any better. It’s a challenge for us that we knew we were going to face, and we’d see how we line up.”