Right fielder Avisail Garcia has a pretty good answer.
“Why not? I’m 26 years old,’’ he said.
The question? Is Garcia part of the White Sox’ future, a promising one with a stash of top-notch prospects knocking at the door in a rebuild plan that figures to blossom in one, two or maybe three years.
The Sox are deep in high-end prospects and especially deep in the outfield with “can’t-miss” corner outfielder Eloy Jimenez, 21; center fielder Luis Robert, 20; and Micker Adolfo, 21, who owns the best arm in the organization, according to Baseball America.
All three were invited to major-league camp in spring training, and there’s some depth behind them, too.
That quality and depth, plus having only one good year to go on, is why Garcia is more “maybe” than “definite” where his Sox future is concerned, even though he blossomed as a hitter, improved defensively and established himself as a hardworking, hustling (the Rick Renteria benching for not running out a grounder notwithstanding) good clubhouse guy in 2017.
Garcia made the All-Star team with a strong first half, and a popular reaction was, “Nice, but can he sustain that in the second half?”
He answered by finishing with a .330 batting average, third in the majors behind Jose Altuve (.346) and Charlie Blackmon (.331) and the highest by a Sox player since Frank Thomas won the 1997 batting title with a .347 average.
“I mean, they can think whatever they want to,’’ said Garcia, who tuned up for Thursday’s season opener by hitting a long home run to left and a single in two plate appearances against the Sox’ Class AAA Charlotte team in an exhibition game Monday after batting .364/.379/.564 with a homer, eight doubles and 10 RBI in 58 plate appearances in spring training. “I’m always confident, and I believe in myself.’’
Skeptics cite Garcia’s .392 batting average on balls in play and his high ground-ball rate as arguments against sustaining numbers close to 2017.
But Garcia proved he can make adjustments at the plate. And he says he locked into a mindset that is sustainable.
“Focus,’’ Garcia said. “And don’t give away anything, anytime. Even in spring training. If you strike out, you have the next at-bat. There is always ‘next.’
“Sometimes we swing at bad pitches and lose focus. In baseball, there is always the next. If you strike out, there is the next at-bat. If you hit a homer, there is the next at-bat. You have to be smart, you have to be focused and you need to have a short memory.’’
Garcia’s All-Star performance is something he won’t forget, though, and it helped him win an arbitration case for $6.7 million pay for the 2018 season.
He’ll be arbitration-eligible again in 2019 before hitting free agency, and general manager Rick Hahn has been noncommittal about whether he fits in future plans. Garcia’s trade value near the midseason trade deadline or next winter might be too good to resist.
The best for all involved is that Garcia makes a decision tough by continuing to perform.
“There are reasons to be optimistic for [his performance] to continue,’’ Hahn said, citing Garcia’s adjustments to how he was pitched as well as minimizing his head movement at the plate.
Another strong year would give the front office a lot to consider.
Keep me in mind, said Garcia, who likes playing for Renteria and wants to be part of it all long-term.
“I’m young,’’ Garcia said. “It doesn’t look like it because I’ve been around here four or five years. But I am young, so why not? I like this team. Let’s see what happens.’’