St. Louis Cardinals: A Justified Love Affair for Greg Garcia and Breyvic Valera
The St. Louis Cardinals intended to improve their defense up the middle of the infield during this offseason. As the offseason comes to a close, and no infield additions appear(ed), is there love to be had for names already on the roster?
Let me jump right to the chase here: I love Greg Garcia and Breyvic Valera and think they are the future of the St. Louis Cardinals infield. I’m sure I’ve already lost a great deal of readers with those opinions (maybe specifically related to Garcia) but so be it.
If you are still with me, thanks for sticking it out. Trust me, I have my reasons. First, I love a good scrappy player (see my deeply-rooted love for Aaron Miles in my previous articles) and both Greg and Breyvic (what a tough name to say and type) are scrappy players.
Second, I think these are silent killers bolstering a lineup while lacking individual pizazz but providing support often unmatched. These submarines, these u-boats, are dangerous because all too often teams fail to credit them until it is too late.
I will immediately admit here (a bit of delimitation in dissertation speak) that Valera has yet to crack the MLB ceiling so his prowess is major-league-unproven as of yet. I predict that 2017 will be the season he eliminates this fact from his lexicon. Let me show you Breyvic’s minor league career numbers:
|Minors (7 seasons)||Minors||683||2524||351||761||108||30||6||263||77||49||222||202||.302||.358||.375||.733|
|Foreign (4 seasons)||Foreign||144||509||76||148||20||11||2||49||18||20||53||39||.291||.357||.385||.742|
|All Levels (7 Seasons)||839||3072||432||922||129||41||8||317||98||71||280||244||.300||.358||.377||.735|
|Rk (1 season)||Minors||47||183||39||57||9||3||1||21||14||6||15||26||.311||.368||.410||.777|
|A+ (2 seasons)||Minors||87||345||44||116||11||5||0||44||13||13||36||15||.336||.398||.397||.796|
|AA (4 seasons)||Minors||219||770||86||197||22||5||3||64||9||10||58||67||.256||.306||.309||.615|
Impressive in solid ways. I’ll take a .300/.358/.377 hitter any day. Imagine- if he can hold these numbers in St. Louis- having this bat in the lineup. Imagine using him to shore-up the back-end or front-end of the lineup.
Even more impressive, Valera’s defense at second and short stop in 2016 ranked at fielding percentages of .992 and .934 respectively. His range factors at each (per nine innings) were ranked at 5.00 at second and 4.93 at short stop. As a point of reference, Aledmys Diaz posted a .961 fielding percentage and an RF/9 of 3.93 at short stop.
You draw your own conclusions… I’m moving on to Greg Garcia. Garcia, who has made it to the MLB level, excites me in similar ways. It also helps that Garcia has come through at times when the St. Louis Cardinals have needed him the most.
Remember the late game heroics during his 2015 season when his first MLB home run tied the game against the Cubs allowing the Cardinals to later win in the same game? I remember it well and remember similar moments of his greatness in both Memphis and St. Louis.
Just as Valera’s numbers encourage his promotion, Garcia’s number encourage his remaining on the roster and serving as the ready backup for the Cardinals infield. Here’s a look:
|162 Game Avg.||162||303||42||79||17||0||5||22||1||1||49||68||.261||.377||.366||.743|
Impressive without flash, yes? No, his .261 BA isn’t going to rattle any real cages nor make anyone jump to swipe him from the St. Louis Cardinals but he presents with so many intangibles that it is really tough to write about him.
It is tough to convince a reader that Garcia has merit when you cannot point to shiny stats. Ignoring that, one stat that is often overlooked is the OBP which is something that Garcia does shine at; Garcia is not at all afraid of taking a walk and getting on base to bother a pitcher and that is a valuable asset to have on a team. Just look at his thirty-eight walks in 2016 in just 214 at-bats!
Often a pest is more impressive and of greater impact than the loudest explosion– just sleep one night in a room with that rogue mosquito buzzing around your ear. Garcia is the Cardinals version of that mosquito.
His defense isn’t one to discredit either. In 2016, he owned a fielding percentage of .974 at second base and .951 at short stop. At second base, Garcia carried a 4.42 RF/9 at second base and a 3.86 at short stop. His sample might be small but his reinforcement would not be wisely tossed aside.
To wrap this, let me propose one of the greatest Cardinals as a point of reference: (sir) Ozzie Smith. The Wizard was one h*ll of a scrappy player. In his day, Ozzie posted a career slash line (19 years) of .262/.337/.328 with a fielding percentage of .978 at short and a RF/9 of 5.22. Sound familiar?
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Listen, I’m not saying that Garcia nor Valera are Ozzie Smith but they sure aren’t too far off. They aren’t flashy like some short stops (read: Derek Jeter), but they are beautifully hidden gems. I look forward to a great 2017 supporting season for Garcia and an MLB debut for Valera.
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