SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Who benefits the most from the Rangers’ blockbuster moves this free agency cycle?
It could be Chris Woodward, who can finally manage a club that’s not rebuilding. Or Chris Young, who in his second year as general manager has committed to turning Arlington into a destination free agents want to come to. Or even Jon Daniels, who has overseen the club through multiple rebuilds now.
But on the field, the answer is seemingly clear. Outfielder Adolis García can thrive in a lineup surrounded by heavy hitters like Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Mitch Garver both on and off the field. So much so that he can hopefully match or even top his stunning rookie season.
Woodward noted that he put García and Semien in the same hitting group “for a reason.”
“I’m excited to be able to to be in the same group of those guys,” García said through interpreter Raul Cardenas. “So I just watch and learn and try to learn things that they know, routines they do, and to try to pick little things that they do so I can kind of improve my game. I’m really excited about it.”
García broke onto the scene last year when Ronald Guzmán's injury led to his callup from the alternate training site two weeks into the season. He had a hot May, when he was named the American League Rookie of the Month, and went on to be named an AL All-Star.
Around the July 30 Trade Deadline, García seemingly hit a wall. Before that, his .798 OPS and 23 homers were among the AL leaders. After the Trade Deadline, he slashed just .220/.264/.386 with a .649 OPS and eight homers.
So the on-field ripples with Seager, Semien and Garver are obvious. With García no longer being the anchor of a lineup like he was after the Rangers dealt Joey Gallo to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline, opposing pitchers have more to plan for and no breaks through the heart of the lineup.
Woodward emphasized that the club’s new hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Tim Hyers can unlock another level to García’s game at the plate. While he was no doubt one of Texas’ best hitters last season, García also had 194 strikeouts in 149 games. His chase rate and whiff rate were both in the bottom 11th percentile in the Majors.
With a few more walks and fewer strikeouts, García becomes an elite offensive player. That is the emphasis with the new coaching staff. It doesn't want him to be passive, but instead patient in finding the right pitch to hit.
“I think last year was good for him to kind of go through a little bit of struggle and expose him a little bit,” Woodward said. “Everything that we do offensively is on the go from pitch one. But we’ve got to find a way to be disciplined in the zone. When the rest of the team is highly disciplined, he will stand out.
“When he stays in the strike zone, he's a superstar. I mean, that's basically what it comes down to. We've done all the numbers and data -- when he stays in the strike zone, he is a superstar.”
Woodward also noted that he believes García just got fatigued in his first full big league season, especially after not playing at all in 2020 due to the pandemic, and it affected his onfield performance. But Woodward wanted him to push through the fatigue and come into '22 energized and ready to go.
García said he thinks he did all the work necessary in the offseason to be ready both physically and mentally. That work continues here in camp, whether it’s extra work with the hitting coaches or just picking Semien’s brain during batting practice.
“I think this year, he comes in fresh, he's had some time off and hopefully he’ll be able to withstand that 162-game stress level,” Woodward said. “He wants to be a great teammate, and he wants to be part of what we're building. So I think those guys around him are just showing him every day, like, 'This is how you do it on a daily basis.' That's really gonna make him better.”