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A Deeper Look Into Yimi Garcia

What do we know about the Astros’ most recent acquisition, reliever Yimi Garcia?

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Miami Marlins Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros knew as the trade deadline approached that they needed to address the bullpen.

While Astros fans have been dreaming of acquiring the best closer on the market in Craig Kimbrel, James Click started his shopping elsewhere. Instead, he raided the bullpen of division rival Mariners and got Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero. While Montero may be a question mark, the addition of Graveman should greatly strengthen the Astros bullpen, as we discussed on the Locked On Astros podcast. But Click was not done.

Before first pitch again on Wednesday, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Marlins were trading RHP Yimi Garcia to the Astros. In return, the Astros sent back Triple-A OF Bryan De La Cruz and RHP Austin Pruitt, per Mark Berman.

But what type of pitcher did the Astros get?

Garcia is in on a one-year deal, making him essentially a rental for the rest of the 2021 season. He has a 3-7 record with a 3.47 ERA with 15 saves and an 8.7 SO/9 rate in 35 innings in 2021. The seven losses may jump out to you, and yes, he’s been used as primarily as a ninth-inning guy this year, with a few 8th and 10th inning appearances here and there. He’s another high leverage reliever option for Dusty Baker to fall on.

Garcia throws a 4-seam fastball (96 MPH), slider (90.5 MPH), curveball (83.7 MPH), and changeup (88.3 MPH). He relies mostly on the fastball and slider, throwing them 43.6% and 34.3%, respectively. He has moved away from his curveball usage in the past couple of years, dropping from 30.8% in 2019 to 10.8% and 14.7% in 2020-21. The slash line off his curveball in 2021 is .500/.483/.833, which is less than desirable. He really only throws his curveball to lefthanded hitters. (Stats from Baseball Savant)

His spin rates have all decreased in the past two years, namely in the curveball going from 2801 RPMs in 2019 to 2672 RPMs in 2021. However, Garcia’s fastball spin rate is one of the best in baseball at 2523 RPMs. His curveball spin is still in the top 75th percentile in baseball, while his fastball is 94th percentile. The power slider will help balance the fastball.

His WHIP of 1.21 lies north of his career mark of 1.02, but let’s take a deeper dive into the sabermetrics. In 2021, Garcia’s FIP is 4.17, which is a little below the average MLB pitcher mark of 4.20, according to Fangraphs. Looking at Garcia’s xERA, which looks at the expected ERA based on exit velocity, it would be 4.63. But in the past, he’s had some xERA’s of 2.75 (2015), 2.68 (2020), and 2.97 (2019).

Brent Strom could work with him to fit more into what the Astros like to do. Garcia also is great versus right-handed hitters, limiting them up to a slash line of .227/.272/.373/.645 compared to lefties at .241/.333/.500/.833.

Via Mark Berman, Click says that “Yimi was a guy we identified early in the process. It’s power stuff. The ability to overpower hitters.” Click also added that they have 44 hours to add additional pieces.

TCB’s Hebrew Hammer weighed in with his own assessment of Garcia:

This year, while Garcia sports a 3.47 ERA, none of the advanced stats seem to back that number with most pointing to a low to mid 4’s ERA reliever. Although it should be noted that Garcia has outperformed the metrics across his career by nearly a full point. (3.41 vs 4.22). Garcia epitomizes the roller coaster of performance by a reliever and small sample sizes. He possesses a fastball with a spin rate to dream on, but only carries 77% active spin. He’s a low risk, high potential reliever if he can be harnessed and be a bit more consistent. I’d see him developing as a solid mid-reliever with potential upside.

Hammer’s overall assessment doesn’t paint a picture of a shutdown closer, but the Astros will not be relying on Garcia to be the closer. They have Ryan Pressly and now Graveman as the setup man. Now Garcia, Montero, Ryne Stanek, and others can battle for the seventh inning role in the Astros bullpen.

This extends the Astros bullpen, which hopefully puts other pitchers who have been pressed into high leverage situations out of necessity back where they should be, in lower leverage roles. This upgrade only costs a good minor league depth piece, not a big part of the Astros future.