Even with a handful of relievers likely ahead of him on the depth chart right now, Dodger fans should not forget about Yimi Garcia.
Garcia, a 28-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, was one of the Dodgers best relievers in 2015. He posted a 3.34 ERA that season while striking out almost 11 batters per nine and walking less than 2 per 9. He looked like the setup man of the future for the team.
That is, until the injury bug got him. In 2016, he was limited to 15.2 total innings with 8.1 of them at the major league level. He ended up having Tommy John surgery on Oct. 25, 2016. Garcia missed all of 2017 recovering from that surgery.
In 2018, Garcia came back and pitched 40 total innings. 22.1 of those innings were for the major league club and it wasn’t pretty. He had a 5.64 ERA, 6.34 FIP, 7.66 K/9, 1.61 BB/9, and -0.4 WAR. It looked like he was done, but now there is reason for hope.
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To start with, Garcia didn’t walk many batters in 2015 and he continued to limit walks in 2018. That’s a good sign that he still has his control, even while he’s regaining a feel for his pitches.
He also saw his average fastball velocity rise to 94.5 MPH from 93.4 in 2015 and his slider gained nearly 2 mph. Garcia still has an incredibly high spin rate on all his pitches and it even rose slightly from his 2015 season.
The combo of a high-spin fastball with good velocity is an incredibly effective one to strike hitters out. Limiting walks and striking out batters is a recipe for success for any pitcher.
Now over 2 years removed from his injury, Garcia should be fully healed with no lingering effects. He showed even more hope with an immaculate inning against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
If the Dodgers get Garcia back to where he was in 2015, he should be a huge part of their bullpen this season.