St. Louis Cardinals: Expectations and projections for Jaime Garcia

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St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitcher Jaime Garcia did not have a very good end to his 2015 season, what can be expected from him this season?

When healthy, the St. Loius Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia can be a dominant starting pitcher. We saw this last year, as Jaime went 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA and 3.00 FIP, making him good for a 2.8 fWAR. Unfortunately, Jaime Garcia spent a good part of last year recovering from two separate injuries and then had the stomach flu induced awful start against the Cubs in the NLDS.

Right now, Jaime is in a spot where he has to prove himself to this team yet again. There are two guys that will take his starts right away if he gets hurt or is ineffective. Those guys are Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales. Then there is Alex Reyes, who will be knocking at the door to the big leagues once he is finished with his marijuana suspension.

So, to say that the club has options to replace Garcia should he not stay healthy or effective is a bit of a given. So, 2016 is going to be a big year for Garcia. Not only will Garcia need to prove himself to the Cardinals, but he will be proving his case for the league, as the Cardinals could choose to decline his $11 Million option for 2017.

With that said, what can Jaime do for the Cardinals this season. I have no clue if Jaime will be able to stay healthy, but I do know that as long as he is on the mound for the Cardinals, they are in good shape.

Next to Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia has arguably the best change up on the Cardinals’ staff and arguably some of the best overall stuff. Not to mention his tight slider that he showcases here to Kelby Tomlinson of the San Francisco Giants.

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Jaime Garcia’s slider. Courtesy of Craig Edwards of Fangraphs. /

He has impeccable command and control of his fastball that he can run in on a righty and away from a lefty. However, the best of Jaime’s pitches in my opinion is his “drop off the table” curve that is devastating to both righties and lefties when he spots it right, as you can see here.

Jaime Garcia's Curve versus.a righty
Jaime Garcia's Curve versus.a righty /
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Jaime Garcia’s curve to a righty. /

This is a great pitch and is a game changer for him, as he can obviously get both hitters out with it. It can keep hitters off base, especially with Jaime’s ability to spot his pitches all over the zone, as Craig Edwards mentions in his Fangraphs piece. When Garcia is on his pitches are extremely effective.

Last season saw Garcia become extremely effective at getting hitters to ground out, as he had a 61.2% ground ball rate, his highest total in a full season. So, if Garcia can continue to do that, we will see Garcia’s success continue.

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Currently, Steamer has Garcia slated to make just 19 starts (considering his injury history this is fair), going 7-6 with a 3.31 ERA up from his 2.43 ERA from last season. This is a pretty fair and conservative guess for Garcia, as his .267 BABIP should normalize and like John Lackey‘s, his LOB% should see a decline as well.

The ZIPS projections for Garcia are not as nice, as they have Garcia making a grand total of just 16 starts for the Cardinals, with a 3.40 ERA and just 1.8 WAR. My projection is somewhat similar to Steamer’s, although I see Garcia making about 25 starts, finishing with an ERA around 3.10.

Garcia is going to be big key for the Cardinals this season. If he can provide the innings at or slightly below the level he pitched last season, he will help keep the Cardinals afloat in the division. I believe that this is the season we finally see Garcia finish the season healthy. If not, the Cardinals likely won’t pick up his option. It is kind of a sink or swim season for Garcia, as we mentioned before.

Next: How good will the Cardinals rotation be this season?

What are your thoughts on Jaime Garcia this season?

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