Deivi García burst onto the major league scene last year as a 21 year old, making his long-awaited debut for prospect nerds like me. In 6 starts and 34.1 innings, he pitched to a 4.98 ERA and 4.15 FIP striking out 22.6 percent of batters faced while walking 4.1 percent.
For such a young player, García’s debut was impressive. And he’s still a top prospect, so there is much to be excited about. Deivi is known for his deadly fastball-curveball combination which confuses batters because it looks like this:
That’s the effect of a rising fastball combined with a curveball averaging nearly 2,700 RPM of spin. Although Deivi’s fastball spin rate and velocity are unremarkable – both rank in the 30th percentile of all major leaguers, the pitch plays up because of an elite active spin rate. 94.2% of García’s fastball spin is considered “active” which means it directly contributes to counteracting gravity and appearing to rise. That is how although Deivi typically throws in the low 90s, he gets swings and misses like this:
So, how can Deivi García improve this year to catapult himself from the back-end of the rotation into a rotation mainstay?
Up the Strikeouts
Coming up through the minors, Deivi was known as a strikeout artist. Through 2019, he struck out over 35 percent of batters and never had a K/9 below 10. The major leagues, of course, are a different story. In the big leagues, García only struck out 22.6 percent of hitters, which worked out to an 8.65 K/9.
The league average strikeout rate is increasing every year, and as a pitcher who gives up hard contact – his hard hit rate is in the 33rd percentile – Deivi needs to up the strikeouts to make his next leap. In fact, García’s whiff percentage was all the way down in the 23rd percentile last year which means there are a few things he could to do in order to generate more Ks. Here’s how:
More Breaking Balls, Fewer Changeups
It feels weird to say this about a Yankee pitcher, but I want Deivi García to throw his changeup less. As shown above, the fastball and curve are Deivi’s bread and butter for a reason. He has an elite curve, yet for some reason he threw his changeup more than his curve in the big leagues last year. Of course it was only 6 starts so every caveat about small sample sizes applies. At the same time, when your curveball looks like this, you need to throw it more than 15 percent of the time:
Naturally, the whiff rate on Deivi’s curveball is 31.4 percent whereas his changeup clocks in at a slightly lower 28.8. The real interesting element here is actually the slider which has a 40 percent whiff rate. For some reason – most likely teams stacking their lineups with left-handed hitters – Deivi only threw his breaking balls 23 percent of the time when a pitcher with his caliber of breaking balls should throw them at least 30 percent of the time if not more.
Singular Release Point
One way for Deivi to improve the deceptiveness on his curveball which may in turn lead to more whiffs is to use the same arm slot on all his pitches. For some reason he releases his curveball approximately 6 inches higher than his fastball which means batters may be able to tell what pitch is coming based on the release point.
The easiest way to maximize the enticing fastball-curveball combination Deivi possesses is to throw them with the same release point so batters can’t pick up which pitch is coming.
García is firmly entrenched in the “battle” for the fifth rotation spot as Jaime laid out earlier this week, and will most likely start the season out at the Alternate Site for all the reasons Jaime stated. Deivi will most likely be the first rotation call-up, and if he can find a way to tighten up his arsenal to induce more strikeouts, his 2021 season will end much better than his 2020 did with a one inning opener role in the playoffs.