Summary: (Warning, lengthy back story is necessary to explain the significance of the Angels signing Julio Garcia in 2014). Garcia was one of the bigger international signings that took place during what I like to call “the dark period” of Angels international prospects. Rather than allowing MLB to find out about some wrongdoings committed down in Latin America, owner Arte Moreno took swift action and fired every scout and director he had in the Dominican Republic. This was in 2008. While it may seem noble right now, particularly when we see what has happened with the Braves recently (lifetime bans, loss of prospects and international money, firing of scouts, blacklisting agents), this was seen as more of a drastic step taken by the Angels. They were no more guilty of doing the same things every single team in major league baseball was guilty of committing.
The only difference here is the Angels decided to act upon it.
This eventually led to a slow rebuilding of that scouting network, and in an area where it’s all about who you know, the Angels didn’t know anyone, and so the Angels were out of play on all impactful international talent. The “dark period” lasted for a solid seven years. The Angels were forced to take everyone else’s leftovers, and those players they did land played at a dilapidated academy on the wrong side of the island. In 2014/2015, the Angels broke ground on a new international academy where it would be easier to commute and play other teams in the Dominican Summer League. They had found themselves a small but “better than nothing” foothold in scouting circles and actually started investing money back into acquiring Latin American prospects.
Sure, it isn’t as if Roberto Baldoquin was the big splash signing they were hoping for, but at the very least it made it clear to the rest of baseball that the Angels can and would spend money going forward. The shadow that the Roberto Baldoquin signing cast made the Angels signing Julio Garcia go largely unnoticed, though he was believed to be an “impactful” prospect.
Blessed with great instincts, great glove, a good arm and range, Garcia caught the attention of scouts early on. It was widely known that while Garcia was one of the marquee defensive prospects in the world, his bat needed a lot of work. What the rest of the world saw as a long swing and lack of pitch recognition, the Angels saw as a smooth, fluid stroke with the chance for gap to gap power. This would of course come with a caveat. Garcia was basically a high school sophomore when signing with he Angels. It would take years before anyone actually knew if the bat would ever properly develop.
In 2014, it didn’t look good. Even competing against other teenagers in the Dominican Summer League, Garcia’s bat was middling at best. And all that defensive prowess he reportedly possessed must have taken a giant step backward. Garcia could make the spectacular play. It was the routine plays that he struggled with. Still, he was only 16 and was given a pass. At a 17 year old in 2015 however, we saw many of the same results. While Garcia showed a greater ability to make contact through a reworked swing, he still lacked pitch recognition or consistency in the field, especially after coming stateside.
In 2016 as an 18 year old, Garcia had put on some muscle and looked very smooth in the field during instructs, but various injuries kept him from making all but a handful of appearances. Finally, as a 19 year old in 2017, Julio Garcia started to show small glimpses of progression on the field. At the plate, he showed surprising power and exceptional plate discipline considering where he was only a year ago. In the field, Garcia looked like a future Gold Glover at shortstop.
It didn’t matter if it was in Arizona or Orem, Garcia finally showed that he can hit and field, and do so as good if not better than his peers. This is why scouts and prospect analysts alike are beginning to take more notice of Garcia. It isn’t as if he’s new to this game, Julio Garcia has been around for a few years now at the lower levels. It also isn’t as if he has hype or is a commonly uttered name on blogs.
No, Garcia is one of those players that has endeared himself to scouts, front offices and a few select prospect bloggers. It’s a quiet ability, not a superstar but one that you can watch and envision playing at the very top level.
He has the offensive and defensive chops for it, and he’s still only 20 years old.
What to expect next season: The nature of minor league baseball: you work for years just to master one level, only to be faced with another daunting challenge the very next season. That’s what Julio will face in 2018 as he heads to full season ball in Burlington. It’s a big step, and it could take some adjustments, but Garcia has the talent to handle it.