New World Order: 2020 White Sox Previews: Leury Garcia

There was a long and painful discussion about whether or not we would do a write up for Leury Legend in this preview series – mostly because the painful part was trying to figure out who would have to subject themselves to spending time writing specifically about freakin’ Leury Garcia. But, considering he was the starting CF last year and figures to be Nick Madrigal‘s caddy the starting 2B until Nick Madrigal is deemed ready for the bigs, it felt right to give the Legend his own post. So let’s do it.

2019 Stats

.279/.310/.378, 8 HR, 40 RBI

1.3 fWAR, 1.6 bWAR, 0.3 WARP

3.4 BB%, 22.5 K%

.294 wOBA, 83 wRC+ .688 OPS

-5 DRS, 1 Out Above Average

Last Week On Nitro: Leury’s 2019 season wasn’t a stat filler or game changer, but in this humble writer’s opinion, it was a bit more valuable than the stats designed to measure value make it out to be – not from a production standpoint, but because he provided a steady-enough presence as the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter for a team whose aspirations were not high anyway. Obviously a player with an 83 wRC+ is not the ideal everyday type, but to his credit Leury was asked to do more than he may be realistically capable of. The fact that he served as an above average CF (1 OAA is good enough for 62nd percentile in the stat, because there are far more bad fielders than good ones) despite being a natural SS shows just how versatile he is and how much he excelled in a less than ideal situation.

On top of that, while his 2019 OBP left something to be desired and I am certainly not one to espouse the virtues of batting average, a team designed to not be good could do a LOT worse for a leadoff hitter than a guy who hit .279 and got on base at a .310 clip. The production obviously was not there overall, as Leury will never threaten to be a power hitter, but that’s also not what was asked of him. I don’t want to be too bullish on what was truly an unimpressive season, but I do think it’d be hard to ask him for much more than what he gave.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): With Leury set to move from everyday CF to temporary 2B and then Swiss Army Knife bench piece in 2020, I think we’re already looking at the best case scenario for how he should be used. He can realistically play every position but catcher (and maybe 1B, as he’s tiny) for you in a pinch, and is likely to do a decent amount of spelling Eloy Jimenez and Nomar Mazara in the OF when they need off days, and might even fill in for Tim Anderson at short occasionally. Overall, the best case scenario for the Sox is that they don’t need Leury’s services in more than 60-70 games, and even that would be an inflated number from spending most of the first month or two waiting for Madrigal to come to take his job. I wouldn’t expect him to hit leadoff anymore, and actually think he will be inversed in the lineup card and hit 9th – that allows the Sox to limit his ABs but still use him as a decent table setter for the big bats when the lineup turns over. From a numbers standpoint, just give a similar enough copy of 2019 and I will be fine.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Again, keeping the expectations low here, there really isn’t a worst possible outcome for Leury that comes from an utter lack of production or total falling off at the plate. He’s already unimpressive there, although I suppose if he has a Yolmer Sanchez 2019-esque season that could get bad quickly. Overall, though, you already don’t expect him to be an above average hitter, so even if he’s a bit closer to 70 wRC+ as a bench piece, it’s whatever.

What would represent the worst possible scenario for the Sox is if Leury is called into more than just a bench piece role due to injury at any position other than 2B. The reason I say other than 2B is that, as you may see tomorrow, I don’t have the hugest expectations of Nick Madrigal’s bat, and second is such a weak position all across baseball that Leury playing there frequently because Madrigal is hurt or needs more time in AAA wouldn’t hurt you all that much. But if Leury becomes an frequent flier in the outfield or at short because any of those players are hurt, the Sox are in for a bad ride, though it won’t exactly be Leury’s fault.

BAH GOD THAT’S GARCIA’S MUSIC: I may have done a bit too much of this in the TOO SWEET section, just because it’s hard to dream on a player like this. He’s 29 and has been in the bigs a few years already, so you know what you’re getting from him. In a starting CF role, that didn’t go far enough, but it was for a bad team so it was fine. As a starting 2B it will leave something to be desired but certainly not enough to cripple the Sox, and he will only be there until June at the absolute latest unless something goes wrong for Madrigal. And as a utility player on the bench and an occasional pinch runner, Leury’s skillset could arguably be a coveted one around baseball. Again, plus-defenders and plus-baserunners are rare on their own, and even rarer in one package.

Basically, if you feel strongly about Leury’s 2019 or 2020 presence in either direction, you may care too much about it. He’s just a guy, but that’s all the Sox need him to be.

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