What led to Avisail Garcia’s decline in 2020? Can he return to the productive force he was in previous years for the Brewers in 2021?
Avisail Garcia was the biggest free agent signing by the Brewers going into 2020, signing a 2-year, $20MM contract, with a $12MM team option for 2022. At the time, it seemed like a lot of money to commit to a crowded outfield, however after Lorenzo Cain opted out of the season, it ended up working out, as Garcia took over center field.
In 2020, Garcia played 348.1 innings in center field, and ended with a UZR of 2.3, his UZR/150 was 8.8. His Defensive Runs Above Average ended up at 3.6.
At 6’4” and 250 lbs, he’s not a typical center fielder, and that was reflected by his Outs Above Average of 0, which placed him in the 36th percentile across all of baseball.
His defense was adequate, but not up to the level of Cain. For Garcia, perhaps his shift to center field, playing a more physical position, adversely impacted his offensive production as well.
Garcia slashed (.238/.333/.326) in Milwaukee. His wRC+ was 81, which was the lowest of his career. According to FanGraphs, his offensive struggles led to an Off of -5.9. Despite that, he was worth 0.7 fWAR, which placed him in a 4-way tie for most valuable Brewers position player, with Christian Yelich, Jedd Gyorko, and Orlando Arcia.
Garcia saw a major decline in his Barrel% from 2019 to 2020. That comes from a decrease in exit velocity and launch angle, both of which Garcia declined in. He went from a Launch Angle of 9.8, to 8.7 degrees, and an average Exit Velo of 89.5 down to 87.4.
That also led to a decline in Garcia’s hard hit%, from 40.3% down to 37.1%. Because Hard Hit is defined as having an exit velocity of 95 MPH+, that makes sense a decline in his exit velocity would occur alongside a decline in hard hit%.
There were 89 players who qualified for the batting title in both 2019 and 2020. Among those players, Avisail Garcia’s decrease in barrel % was the highest (-6.8%). He also had the 20th largest decrease in wRC+ at 31 (Christian Yelich was tied at the largest decline of wRC+ at 62).
Garcia’s Barrel% plummeted from the 82nd percentile in 2019 all the way down to the 15th percentile.
Fortunately for Garcia, 2020 was a funky year, where he was asked to perform in an unfamiliar position. Before 2020, he had spent just over 300 innings in center field combined in his career, he spent 348.1 innings there in 2020.
Bringing Lorenzo Cain back into the fold will allow Garcia to move back to right, where he has spent most of his career, and where he was signed to play.
It may not be feasible to expect Avisail to replicate his 2017, when he had a wRC+ of 138, and was worth 4.2 fWAR, but getting Garcia back to the point where he is making solid contact with the ball, and is able to barrel up on the ball will benefit both himself, and Milwaukee.
David Stearns has not been afraid to listen on anyone on the roster before, and Garcia is likely no exception. After an underwhelming season, it may be difficult to envision Garcia having much trade value. In addition to his 2020 struggles, his $10 million salary may be tough to move.
However, should he find his hitting stroke again, Garcia will easily be worth the contract he signed.