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Oops! All Astros: Luis Garcia

What role will Mr. Three-step fill for the Astros in 2023?

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Garcia is the 116th of 316 players we’re reviewing in our season’s end series.

Luis Garcia is a six-foot-one, 244 lb. right-handed starting pitcher from Bolivar, VZ. Born on December 13, 1996, Garcia signed his first professional deal with the Astros on July 2, 2017 to a contract with a $20,000 signing bonus.

Garcia worked his way up through Houston’s system for a few seasons before making his major league debut in 2020. After starting in one of his five MLB appearances that year, he entered the Astros’ rotation for the 2021 campaign.

Garcia started in 28 of 30 appearances in 2021, going 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA, a 1.178 WHIP, and a .232/.295/.393 opposing slashline. He struck out 167 over 155 13 innings for a 9.7 K/9, while holding his walks to only 50, or 2.9 per nine. He was named one of five starting pitchers on the MLB All-Rookie Team.

Garcia opened the 2022 season as Houston’s number five starter, a spot he looks to enter the 2023 campaign in as well. On May 6, he put up a season-high 74 GameScore by striking out nine and allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

Through the regular season, Garcia posted a 15-8 record with 28 turns in the rotation. He struck out 157 over 157 13 innings, holding opponents to a .222/.279/.399 slashline and finishing with a 1.131 WHIP and a 3.72 ERA. His FIP was a more modest 3.93, indicating that he may have benefitted very slightly from above-average fielding behind him during his time on the mound.

Garcia uses a five-pitch mix in his repertoire. He’s got a 94 MPH fastball and an 85 MPH cutter that make up over 70 percent of his offerings. He’s also reliant on a 77 MPH curve, an 85 MPH changeup, and an 80 MPH slider for 10 percent each. His cutter, in particular, is likely his best weapon. Opponents only hit it at a .151/.184/.247 clip, with a XWOBA of just .243.

Garcia’s fastball spin grades out as elite, ranking in the 84th percentile while his velocity, conversely, stands in the bottom 12 percent. His 17 inches of average horizontal break on his changeup also places him in elite company.

Relegated as he was to the bullpen as the Astros constricted to a four-man rotation in the postseason, Garcia saw only limited action in the playoffs. His first appearance was quite memorable, as he pitched the 14th through 18th innings in Houston’s 1-0 Game Three victory against the Seattle Mariners on October 15. Garcia earned the victory in that game when Jeremy Peña smacked a solo shot in the top half of the 18th.

Garcia’s second postseason appearance was less-than-ideal. He took the loss by surrendering a 10th-inning home run to J.T. Realmuto and the Philadelphia Phillies in Game One of the World Series.

Sometime soon after the all star break, the Astros famously went to a six-man rotation. Honestly, before Jake Odorizzi leaving and adding Hunter Brown to the mix, they could have gone eight deep. Of the 18 pitchers with better-than-average WHIP on the Astros, Garcia ranked ninth, with a 1.131. In the starting rotation, he ranked behind only Justin Verlander (0.829) and Christian Javier (0.948).

Assuming that Verlander leaves, Houston’s top three in the rotation would be Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr., and Javier. Garcia figures into the second three, also featuring Hunter Brown and José Urquidy. I don’t know if Houston will continue it’s six-headed experiment or if they’ll decide to shop one or more starters for additional depth behind the plate or in the outfield.