Mar 5, 2023; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Luis Garcia (77) throws a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the second inning at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight: Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout the spring.
Today’s Astros Player of the Day is starting pitcher Luis Garcia.
Garcia’s rise to prominence with the Astros is a unique tale, having been essentially pressed into service with the major league team in the 2020 pandemic-shortened season due to the plethora of injuries Houston had among its pitchers.
At the time, Garcia had never pitched above High-A, and his time at High-A Fayetteville consisted of fewer than 66 innings. He showed promise as a 23-year-old in limited time in 2020, and became a full-time starter in 2021.
Garcia was excellent in 2021, going 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Even more impressive was his strong 3.34 K/BB rate, especially for a then 24-year-old rookie. Garcia finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, and a very strong case can be made he was robbed due to anti-Astros sentiment in the media.
There were concerns about Garcia entering 2022 because of his previous year’s workload. His 171 combined innings pitched between the regular and postseason in 2021 were a career-high by over 62 innings. Garcia appeared to be wearing down late in the season and struggled in the postseason.
Garcia had an inconsistent 2022, particularly struggling from late July to early September, during which time his ERA rose from 3.65 to as high as 4.14 before he closed the season strong. He allowed only two earned runs in his final 17 innings of the season, striking out 14 batters. He finished the season 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
While not part of the 2022 postseason rotation, Garcia was called upon out of the bullpen in Game 3 of the ALDS against Seattle. He entered a scoreless game in the 14th inning and tossed five scoreless innings to get the victory, allowing only two hits and striking out six. He took the loss in Game 1 of the World Series when J.T. Realmuto hit a 97 MPH fastball from Garcia for an opposite-field home run that barely sneaked over the wall in right field.
Overall, Garcia showed the ability to handle the workload, and his ability to rebound late in the season was a very positive sign.
Due to new pitch clock rules this season, Garcia was forced to abandon his trademark “rock the baby” delivery, but so far in spring training, it has not impacted him. Garcia has allowed only one run in his five innings this spring, with five strikeouts. There has been no impact on his velocity or command.
Garcia projects to open the season as the Astros’ third starter, behind Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier, ahead of Jose Urquidy and Hunter Brown. With back-to-back seasons maintaining the same workload, there should be no concerns about his workload this season.