When the LA Angels traded for Luis Garcia earlier this offseason, sending Jose Alvarez to the Phillies in exchange. While many fans questioned the move, it may just be exactly what the bullpen needs.
On paper, LA Angels fans had a case for their complaints and skepticism. Jose Alvarez posted a 2.71 ERA last season. He absolutely dominated left-handed hitters, while also being an above-average reliever against right-handed batters.
On the reverse, the right-handed posted an ERA north of six, and was even worse against left-handed batters than he was against righties, who consistently made solid contact when facing Garcia. However, there is plenty of reason for optimism going into 2019.
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Garcia is an absolute flamethrower. His velocity is some of the best in the league, and Billy Eppler was betting on the upside of Garcia when he traded for him. Unlike most high-velocity pitchers, Garcia is not prone to home runs. In fact, he rarely allows any. In 244.2 innings, he has allowed only 18 home runs. For reference, 13 Angels allowed 5 or more just last season, while eight of those 13 allowed double-digit home runs.
Garcia’s ERA last season was also influenced heavily by an awful September. Going into the final month of the season, he had a 3.83 ERA. One month later, and he landed with a disappointing, and misleading, 6.07 ERA for the entire season.
There is no doubt losing Alvarez hurt, but the combination of strikeouts, velocity, and three plus pitches made Garcia worth the risk. Garcia, for what it’s worth, will also go from a hitter-friendly park in Philadelphia to one in Anaheim that favors pitchers more. Not a huge factor given his ground ball approach, but worth noting.
When asked about Garcia, Eppler had nothing but praise, saying, ““He has the tools and the stuff to miss bats,” Eppler said. “He’s shown that in his history. He can miss bats. He provides us another power look out of the bullpen”.
The Angels bullpen in general is underrated, as they have a variety of pitchers who have shown flashes of above-average performances. Garcia is another one of those options, and he may just have the highest ceiling of any player in the Angels’ bullpen.