Long post incoming on Robel Garcia:
Last fall, Cubs scout Gabe Zappin was in Arizona covering the Cincinnati Reds in the instructional league. On this particular day, a player on Team Italy, the Reds’ opponent that game, grabbed his attention.
“I was basically watching the Reds club and this kid made a really nice diving play in the infield, threw the ball across the diamond and it caught my eye,” Zappin said. “I was like, ‘That was a big-league play right there.’ He stood out physically with his body and then he gets up to the plate and it sounds different off the bat. He hit a ball into the desert off a really good arm and then he came back up and hit one off the center-field fence. So I thought, ‘Boy, who is this kid and what’s he doing here?’”
A native of the Dominican Republic, Garcia had married an Italian woman and had been playing baseball in Italy for five years.
Now it makes sense why he was playing professionally in Italy lol.
“It was just being in the right place at the right time,” Zappin said. “It could have been very easy for me to look at a 26-year-old who had been in and out of baseball and just pass it up. For whatever reason, I sent an email saying this kid lit me up today and there’s something there.”
The 42-year-old Zappin has been a Cubs area scout for six years and spent 15 years coaching at the collegiate level before joining the organization. He now covers Northern California and was the point man for their last two first-round picks, Nico Hoerner and Ryan Jensen. When he emails his bosses, it doesn’t go to spam.
I'm higher on Ryan Jensen after reading that and this area scout knows his stuff. He did a great job finding this kid.
“It’s real pop,” McLeod said. “The exit velocity is there. There’s been some swing and miss too, but I think he’s got 17 home runs and a ton of base hits. It’s been pretty fun to watch.”
With that in mind, Garcia is now becoming an enticing option for the Cubs at second base. They’d need to open up a 40-man spot for him, but roster maneuvering is less of a concern if it means being able to put the best possible 25-man group together at the big-league level.
“He’s a really intriguing player,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “It is an incredible story. He hits the ball really, really hard form both sides of the plate. Gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed, and he can get around on anybody’s fastball. Those are really good ingredients. It’ll be interesting to see how he does as the league adjusts to him a little bit and challenges him with heavier dose of breaking stuff. He’s got a chance to continue to make adjustments and continue to prove himself. He’s got some versatility to his game, certainly got some power to his game. It’s an intriguing fit for the club down the road.”
As of now, the Cubs know that what Zappin saw that day last fall was legit. Garcia clobbers fastballs.
“In this game with a ton of velo, he’s a guy who can really handle a fastball,” Epstein said. “That’s a good thing to start with.”
“You gotta pay attention to a guy who is performing at the level he is and offers the different skills that he has,” Epstein said. “Anyone at the Triple-A level certainly is on the radar screen. We’ve spent a lot of time watching him, evaluating him, talking about him and looking forward to the next phases of his development.”
But to fully tap into the potential, the Cubs and Garcia had some work to do. Transitioning back into affiliated ball wasn't going to be easy. And simultaneously fixing some of his flaws was going to be difficult as well. So Garcia started working with Chris Valaika, Chicago's minor league hitting coordinator.
“Its just been little maintenance things,” Valaika said. "The biggest thing with him is he’s really special. He’s been a natural switch-hitter his whole life, so there’s not a ton of falloff from either side. So, the big thing has been approach and the big part of the field and then just managing the breaking ball. The more you control the zone like that, it forces pitchers back into the zone and the more damage he does.”
Really exciting stuff in both articles on Robel Garcia. Seems like the FO is really high on him and that he'll get the chance to prove himself with the Cubs at some point.