Barring injury, the majority of the roster spots on the Dodgers‘ 25-man roster have already been solidified. However, the final slots in the bullpen could come down to the last few days of camp, as there could conceivably be a battle between five or more arms for one position.
During the offseason, there were many conversations about righty Brock Stewart and the premise that he would need to make the team out of camp because he was out of options. Despite those beliefs, information surfaced about a week ago stating that Stewart and the Dodgers were granted a fourth option year as permitted by a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement. Basically, the stipulation indicates that a player can earn a fourth option year after being optioned three times, but not yet having logged at least five full years of professional experience, including minor league ball.
So, Stewart is safe—probably for the entirety of the 2019 season. I’m still not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, especially when considering Stewart’s own personal interests.
Anyway, another player who’s in a similar position is reliever Yimi Garcia. The 28-year-old righty is definitely out of options, and if he’s not included on the Opening Day 25-man roster, the waiver wire may determine his ultimate destiny.
Nonetheless, based on his early Cactus League outings, the Dominican native is throwing like he belongs. He’s already made two appearances, and he’s been absolutely perfect in the process. He’s pitched two full innings and has struck out four opposing batters. Not a single runner has reached base against him.
Of course, it’s still early. And the caliber of opposing hitting will not increase until many of the non-roster invites are sent to the minor league sides of their respective camps. But, if Garcia continues to throw how many know he can, the debate on his inclusion on the 25-man may be moot when management selects the Opening Day roster.
Garcia has always had the reputation of having a fantastic spin-rate. Remarkably, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder had the best fastball spin-rate in the majors heading into his 2016 campaign. Thanks to the wonders of Statcast, Garcia’s spin rate averaged 2553 RPM at that point in time, and this is worth noting because that much fastball spin is usually unheard of. The big league average that season was 2198 RPM.
During his impressive 2015 season, Garcia threw 56-2/3 innings over 59 games while posting a 3.20 FIP and a 0.953 WHIP alongside 68 strikeouts. His 10.8 K/9 that year was the highest of his career, which has been otherwise hampered drastically by a plethora of injuries.
Garcia threw just 14 major league games in 2016, and after trying to battle through elbow issues all year long, it was determined that he needed UCL surgery, which eventually kept him sidelined for the entirety of the 2017 season.
Many thought that 2018 would see Garcia re-emerge as a big league contributor, but management decided to allow him to begin his year at Triple-A Oklahoma City to fine-tune his mechanics and build up his arm strength. He was initially recalled in early May, but didn’t really flash any impressive stuff. He rotated back and forth between the bigs and minors most of the year, and he was once again curbed by a few nagging injuries that prevented him from achieving any momentum, although he did make a fairly respectable run down the stretch of the regular season.
When his 2018 season was said and done, Garcia tallied a 6.34 FIP and a 1.48 WHIP while striking out 19 and walking four in 22-1/3 innings over 25 games.
As far as his repertoire goes, he’s best known for his nasty slider, but he compliments it with a mid-nineties fastball that has been known to reach up to 97 MPH. And, as we’ve already explained, it moves. He has experimented with a changeup over the years, but still has not found much success with it, which isn’t entirely necessary for his intended role in relief. His arm angle is extremely deceptive and is a critical part of his mechanics when he’s throwing well.
Garcia was originally signed for $50K as an 18-year-old free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.