Like most people, I knew very little about Adolis García heading into the 2021 season. To be completely honest, I’m not sure I had even heard of him. But with 113 PA so far this season, García is hitting .295/.336/.590, with nine home runs and a 156 wRC+. By Statcast percentiles, here’s how he ranks among the rest of the league.
Although there are some expected stats that can be perceived as middling, the 93rd and 96th percentile rankings in hard hit rate and barrel rate tell us this guy has been hitting the ball well so far. So who is he?
Before defecting from Cuba and beginning his MLB professional career, García had previously played with Ciego de Ávila of the Cuban National Series and the Yomiuri Giants of NPB. In 2017, he signed with the Cardinals and spent the season in AA and AAA, where he hit a combined 15 home runs. He made his MLB debut in 2018, where he recorded two hits in 17 plate appearances. A year later he was traded to the Texas Rangers and in 2020 had just seven plate appearances with the big league team. Nonetheless, García found himself on the active roster in 2021 and has very quickly worked himself into the everyday starting lineup. The centerfielder is hitting to all fields with power and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet. Let’s see where this breakout offense is coming from.
Because García had only 24 plate appearances at the MLB level prior to this season, there isn’t a ton to go off of. However, we do have some video. And although we can’t truly tell if his swing changes were the main contributor to his success, we can certainly make the case that they play some role. Take this foul ball off of a hanging slider from Shaun Anderson last season. It’s a really terrible pitch, and definitely one that should be crushed in a 3-1 count, but García is late on it, resulting in a foul ball and missed opportunity to do damage.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and García gets another poorly thrown slider over the heart of the plate—this time from Justus Sheffield—and hits it 400 feet to left center.
Let’s start by addressing the obvious changes. The 2021 García has his hands a bit lower with his bat more upright, his stance slightly more open, and most notably, a leg kick! We’ve seen this kind of swing change lead to breakouts for many hitters—with the prime example being Josh Donaldson. In this case, García has traded the toe-tap in for a leg kick and has since taken flight! But there is another change that is a bit harder to see in the above GIFs. This change, which I believe plays a key role in García’s hard-hitting, is another significant change we saw in Donaldson’s swing transformation, and it’s commonly referred to as “gaining ground.” In layman’s terms, I think Garcia has adopted a slightly larger stride that has allowed more weight transfer into his front side. Take a look at a side view of one of his homers this season compared to a low-quality video from his time in St. Louis.
I’ve added pauses to the GIF at two points: when the front foot is about to leave the ground and when the front foot strikes the ground again. To me, García’s new swing (bottom) looks like he is getting much more weight into his front leg on his stride. He is allowing his body to naturally fall forward, rather than reaching with his front foot and trying to keep his bodyweight back. The rule of thumb that I’ve heard today’s hitters discuss, with regards to the stride, is that the best position you can be in when your front foot strikes is one where your bodyweight is distributed evenly among your front leg and back leg. It goes against the old-school thought of keeping your weight back and, instead, allows the hitter to move more freely while still maintaining balance. In the case of García, he is getting more weight into is front side while still maintaining his balance at foot-strike. He is more than athletic enough to still stiffen up that front leg as he begins the turn of his swing, directing all that gained energy into the ball. As a result, it would make sense to see a lot more hard contact.
García has a .295 ISO, so we know he is hitting for power. But perhaps one of the most obvious indicators that his swing changes have led to a more power, is García’s max exit velocity across in each of his MLB seasons. In 2018, his max EV after 10 batted balls was 97.7 MPH and in 2020, albeit just two batted balls, his max EV was 76.4 MPH. This season García has 72 batted balls with a max EV of 109.5 MPH. Maybe he just needed more than 12 total batted balls to show his true power, but it’s also plausible that the new swing led to such an increase in exit velocity. But his peak EV isn’t nearly as impressive as how often García has been able to hit a ball over 95 MPH. He’s been doing it all season.
García is owns the 19th best hard hit rate, hitting a ball hard 52.8% of the time. And what’s he doing even better than that? He’s barreling the ball as well. García is 10th in MLB in barrel rate (per BBE), ahead of hitting phenoms like Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Giancarlo Stanton. The results have led to the league’s 16th best wRC+ and has him one home run shy of tying the league’s leaders. Among hitters with 100 plate appearances, García is 10th in the league ISO and 13th in SLG. It’s safe to say the 28-year-old rookie is mashing.
García still has some concerns, mostly stemming from questionable plate discipline and a tendency to both whiff and chase, but he’s turning in a breakout season that is well-deserving of more attention. He is teammates with one of the league’s best power hitters, Joey Gallo, yet García is the hitter crushing balls nightly. Did his swing change make all the difference? I don’t know. But given the changes we saw and the production we are continuing to see, maybe those changes did have an impact. Maybe a leg kick and more weight transfer was all it took for García to start consistently crushing the ball, or maybe it was always there and he just needed a larger sample size to prove it. Either way, García deserves your attention.
Photo by Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire