Will Avisail Garcia ever live up to his potential?
That’s a question that has been bandied about for a while on the South Side.
In 2013, he was the prize return in a three-team trade with the Tigers and Red Sox that sent Jake Peavy to Boston.
Three lackluster seasons later, and the White Sox are still waiting for Garcia to deliver the middle-of-the-order power bat they anticipated.
It’s early in the 2017 season, but Garcia is showing signs that he might have turned a corner.
In four games, Garcia has eight hits, including a triple and home run in the Sox’ 6-2 victory Saturday against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. His three-hit effort fell a double short of a cycle, and he scored two runs and drove in three.
“I’m just trying to put my hands inside more and not try to do too much,” said Garcia, who noted his focus also has been to keep his head down as he swings through the ball. “I’ve been missing fastballs because, you know, my head was a little bit off.”
Garcia’s time with the Sox got off to a rocky start. He missed most of 2014, his first full season, with a shoulder injury after attempting a diving catch.
His batting average the next two seasons hovered around .250 with an on-base percentage idling at just above .300. He entered the season with 39 career home runs.
He drew comparisons to Dayan Viciedo — a former Sox prospect with tremendous potential and hype who fizzled out of the majors after a few too many lackluster seasons of his own.
It’s easy to forget, though, now in his sixth season in the majors, that Garcia is only 25 and could still have All-Star seasons ahead.
“Avisail is more relaxed at the plate,” Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez said. “He’s not trying to do too much. He has power no matter what, so he’s just staying through it and making good contact. You can tell by the way things are going for him right now.”
Garcia put in extra work this offseason. He improved his fitness routine, lost nearly 20 pounds and adjusted his diet to cut back on red meat.
“Last year, I was eating steak today, and the next day steak, then chicken, then steak,” he said with a laugh. “Right now, I’m eating a steak, then fish, chicken, fish. . . . I don’t want to get fat.”
In his first at-bat, Garcia lined a triple to right-center with two strikes, a situation he has targeted for improvement.
“He’s finding when he chokes up a little bit with two strikes, it allows the ball to travel a little bit deeper,” manager Rick Renteria said.
“He’s a strong man. If he puts the barrel on the baseball, it has a chance to travel, and it happened today.”
Garcia agreed, adding he’s more in control of his at-bats with two strikes.
“You don’t have to do too much,” he said. “You just have to see the ball and hit it. The homers are gonna come. I know I have power.”
His two-run homer in the sixth scored Todd Frazier for the second time in the game.
Garcia signed a one-year, $3 million contract in the offseason, so it’s safe to say this could be his last chance to make an impression with the Sox.
Asked whether Garcia has something to prove, Renteria said: “Every player is trying to prove themselves every day.”