Garcia records 1st MLB hit, then gets 2 more

Royals prospect getting opportunity to showcase skills at big league level

July 30th, 2022

NEW YORK -- With one out in the third inning Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Maikel Garcia flew down the line after hitting a chopper off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. His touted speed put pressure on shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who bobbled the ball trying to throw to first while Garcia reached safely and tallied his first Major League hit in the Royals’ 11-5 loss.

With two outs in the fifth, Garcia sharply lined a hanging slider into center field for career hit No. 2, sparking a five-run rally that pushed Kansas City ahead. Garcia finished 3-for-4 with a run scored, as two of his hits came against Cole. Garcia's speed shifted the momentum at the time, breaking Cole’s rhythm and keeping the fifth alive, leading to the Royals breaking their 31-inning scoreless streak.

Garcia, who had only one Major League at-bat prior to his consecutive starts at shortstop the past two days, was called up from Double-A Northwest Arkansas after outfielder Andrew Benintendi was traded to the Yankees. With shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. still working through right hamstring tightness, Garcia, the Royals’ No. 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was thrust into the starting role on Thursday and Friday in front of a packed Yankee Stadium and held his own. 

“It’s nice to see him get his first hit,” manager Mike Matheny said. “[He] made a couple of them. Hit the one ball hard up the middle, and the other two, just put it in the right place and put the ball in play. Looking forward to watching him more.”

While Garcia had an impressive night, he also made a costly error on a Josh Donaldson ground ball in the eighth inning, when the Yankees rallied for eight runs to take an 11-5 lead.

“This is always a tough task for a young player to come in here. But we know that he's a plus defender,” Matheny said. “But it's just one of those tough days.”

Prior to the eighth, a rain shower rolled through the Bronx, causing a 23-minute delay. While the Yankee Stadium grounds crew worked diligently to restore the infield, the playing surface remained slick and muddy, potentially impacting the final two innings.

“It was tough conditions. It rained, and I think the grounds crew did the best they could to dry it up. Even I fell on one,” Royals reliever Scott Barlow said. “The whole infield was kind of a little rough condition.”

Garcia signed with Kansas City during the 2016-17 international signing period. In 2021, he split time between Single-A Columbia and High-A Quad Cities. There, he began to flash the tools that make him an intriguing young player. Impressing scouts with his ability to hit for average, get on base and create chaos with his speed -- in addition to his solid glove -- Garcia moved up to Double-A and earned a spot on the Royals’ 40-man roster to open the 2022 season.

The cousin of former Royals postseason hero Alcides Escobar, Garcia is the eighth member of his family to play in the Majors. This family tree includes his uncles, Kelvim and Jose Escobar, his cousins, Edwin and Angel Escobar, Vicente Campos and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves' superstar.

Of his familial big league connections, Garcia is closest with Acuña due to their proximity in age. The two work out together during the offseason, with Acuña reaching out to congratulate the 22-year-old Garcia when he was promoted ahead of his MLB debut in Toronto on July 15.

While Garcia currently finds himself in what seems to be a temporary utility role with the big league club, his talent continues to flash when given the opportunity. The Venezuelan product’s trajectory continues to ascend as he hones his natural ability and develops his body. Scouts project Garcia to become an everyday shortstop in the pros eventually, assuming his continued development at the plate.

“We have faith in him, or he wouldn't have been out there right now," Matheny said. "We know the kind of position player, [the] kind of defender he is, the kind of shortstop. He knows that, too. It's a big ask to come in and play shortstop at the Major League level. We know he's ready for it. He's proven that to everybody, and he'll continue to get the opportunities.”