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Why Avisail Garcia could have intriguing upside

27-year-old right fielder might be smart pickup in free agency
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

When the White Sox non-tendered right fielder Avisail Garcia on Friday, it brought an end to a six-year union that began with many calling the prospect "Mini Miggy" because of how similar his swing was to superstar Miguel Cabrera's. And it was fitting, given that the White Sox acquired Garcia from the Tigers in 2013 as part of the three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston.

It took five seasons for Garcia to demonstrate the type of ability that earned him that nickname, but in '17, he hit .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs in 136 games. He made his first All-Star team, and for a time, it looked as though he had finally begun to fulfill his potential. But then came last season, in which knee and hamstring injuries limited him to 93 games. His production took a steep decline, as he finished the season with a .236/.281/.438 slash line, albeit with a career-high 19 homers.

When the White Sox non-tendered right fielder Avisail Garcia on Friday, it brought an end to a six-year union that began with many calling the prospect "Mini Miggy" because of how similar his swing was to superstar Miguel Cabrera's. And it was fitting, given that the White Sox acquired Garcia from the Tigers in 2013 as part of the three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston.

It took five seasons for Garcia to demonstrate the type of ability that earned him that nickname, but in '17, he hit .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs in 136 games. He made his first All-Star team, and for a time, it looked as though he had finally begun to fulfill his potential. But then came last season, in which knee and hamstring injuries limited him to 93 games. His production took a steep decline, as he finished the season with a .236/.281/.438 slash line, albeit with a career-high 19 homers.

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"I had been feeling something, something, something [in my knee] and then I started feeling my hammy, because I think I was [favoring it]," Garcia said in September. "Especially because it's my right knee, and that's where all my power is."

The White Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and many of Chicago's top prospects are outfielders who will soon be knocking on the door to the Majors. Chief among them is Eloy Jimenez, the No. 3 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline. So the organization decided it was time to move on from Garcia. But while the White Sox don't have a place for him, he could prove to have plenty of upside elsewhere if he stays healthy.

Video: Garcia mashes five homers during a monster week

Quality of contact better than it's ever been
Despite his .719 OPS, Garcia hit the ball hard more often last season than he had since 2015, when Statcast™ began tracking. Per Statcast™, his hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater) was 43.2 percent. In his breakout '17 campaign, it was 40.7 percent. His barrel rate last season was 11.6 percent, compared to 8.8 percent in '17. His average launch angle also ticked up from 7.6 degrees in '17 to 9.6 degrees last season.

But that was when Garcia put the ball in play. His major issue last season was his strikeout rate, a career-high 26.5 percent. Meanwhile, his walk rate fell from 7.5 percent in '16 to 5.2 percent last season.

Well-above-average speed
Garcia is a big guy, and if you think "Mini Miggy," you don't think of speed. But the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Garcia's average Sprint Speed, per Statcast™, was 29.0 feet/second last season. The average MLB sprint speed is 27.0 feet/second, and 30.0 is considered elite. And Garcia did that in spite of the knee and hamstring injuries that bothered him all season.

Video: CWS@KC: Garcia beats out infield single for RBI

Improved defensive metrics
Garcia was above average defensively in right field last season. Though he was at 0 Outs Above Average in '17, that figure was +5 in '18. Though it's a small sample size, that placed him ahead of outfielders like Jason Heyward and Ronald Acuna Jr.

Video: CHC@CWS: Avisail hustles to track down fly ball

The bottom line
Garcia's injury history is, without a doubt, concerning. He's only played in more than 130 games in a season twice, and his list of ailments is substantial, including a thumb injury in '17. But he's still only 27 years old, and he has shown what he can do with his breakout campaign two seasons ago. 

Though he's only under team control for one more year -- he made $6.7 million last season thanks largely to his '17 performance -- that short commitment would amount to a "make-good" deal with high potential upside. There are several teams that could use a right fielder, including the Indians, Astros (who reportedly tried to acquire Garcia from Chicago during the season), Braves and Rockies.

Which team will take a chance on Garcia? The one that shares the belief he expressed to reporters in September.

"I know the talent is there," he said. "I know what I can do when I'm healthy, so let's see what happens next year."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Avisail Garcia