Going Deep: “Swing away, Avi. Avi? Swing away.”

Scott examines Avisail Garcia, the enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a White Sox jersey.

(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

You know, sometimes in life we come across a person who defies expectations.  It could be a family member, a significant other, or in some extreme cases,  a fantasy outfielder named Avisail Garcia (OF, Chicago White Sox).  To illustrate why I find him so baffling, here’s a brief list of the ways he has surprised me during his career:

  • His name, Avisail, is actually pronounced ah-vee-cy-EEL and not AH-vi-sale.
  • He got the nickname “Mini Miggy” in 2012 with the Tigers, but he’s the same size and weight as Miguel Cabrera (6’4″, 240 pounds).
  • His size and build gave scouts and fantasy baseball players hope that he would be a useful power bat, but he’s never hit more than 18 home runs in a season at any level.
  • He was abruptly traded to the rival White Sox in 2013, and the rumors suggest it was due to his role in one of the wildest clubhouse dramas in recent memory featuring adultery, a fight (which allegedly aggravated a star player’s existing injury), two trades, and plenty of hurt feelings.

Avi finds himself at the top of the “most added” list for most of the major fantasy venues, so naturally, many fantasy players are taking a closer look at what he’s doing.  While it’s easy to dismiss his success as BABIP-fueled luck, I’ve learned that nothing is as it seems when it comes to Avisail.  There are two things that Avi is doing that are worth a closer look that, at least to some extent, explain what he does and how he does it.

Swinging at Everything
(and occasionally making contact)

Avisail has always been knocked for his plate discipline.  He swings a lot and misses a lot — it’s a routine part of any Avisail analysis.  When I dug deeper, I was amazed at what I saw.  Among the 222 batters with at least 600 trips to the plate since the start of 2017, here is where Avisail Garcia ranks in plate discipline stats:

Swing% O-Swing% Z-Swing% Contact% O-Contact% Z-Contact% SwStr%
1st 6th 2nd 197th 203rd 154th 5th

To put it bluntly, he swings WAY more than average and makes contact WAY less than average.  If we were dealing with a normal person, you’d have to believe that we’d be looking at an awful strikeout rate and batting average . . . but Avisail Garcia is not a normal person.  Somehow, his strikeout rate int hat same time period is 20.7% — better than league average.  To put that into perspective how wild that is, the 4 batters with a higher whiff rate than Avi have strikeout rates of 36.7%, 37.5%, 37% and 27%.  To make matters even more confusing, his .320 batting average over that time is 2nd only to Jose Altuve.   The only thing that isn’t surprising is his below average walk rate — it’s not easy to get walked when you swing at everything.

How is a guy who is so poor at making contact getting so many hits?  Unfortunately, his plate discipline but itself creates more questions than answers, so let’s move on to the next topic —

Hitting it Hard

In 2018, exactly 2 baseballs have had the distinct privilege of being hit more than 480 feet.  Franchy Cordero cranked out the deepest hit — a 489 foot blast on April 20.  The other?  A 481 foot laser off the bat of Avi on April 3.

Remember how I mentioned that scouts and fantasy players were hoping that he’d blossom into a power hitter?  Well, it turns out that he kind of became one.  Per Baseball Savant, his average exit velocity of 93.9 mph is 6th in the majors this season among players with 100+ batted ball events.  In fact, 51% of the balls off his bat zoom off at a speed of at least 95 mph.  He’s definitely got power.  That power isn’t being used for home runs, though.  He’s never hit more than 18 in a season at any level, and his launch angle is below average.  Instead, that bulk of his is being used to punch ground balls and liners past shortstops and third basemen.  Take a look at the batted ball and hit types from 2017-present:

He is thriving off of line drives and hard ground balls that he’s pulling through the infield.  When he does get the ball in the air, it’s usually an out to an outfielder, as he RARELY pops it up to the infield.  Those hard line drives and ground balls, along with his decent running ability, help him sustain a high BABIP, especially when very few teams shift against right-handed batters with any regularity), and a high BABIP usually leads to a higher batting average.  It also validates a theory on why he whiffs so — he’s just swinging the bat really hard.  When you mix how hard he swings with his colossal swing rate, you’re going to find a lot of whiffs.


So he swings a lot, misses a lot, pulls the ball a lot, and makes really hard contact.  So what!?  Lots of guys do that, don’t they?

Yes, they do.  Bu those guys are the typical power hitters.  We’re dealing with Avisail Garcia.  He’s not like other people.  The new Avisail Garcia, the one we’ve been watching since 2017 began, is doing something that can be sustainable.  His aggressive approach will dissuade others, no doubt about it.  He’s at the top of the list in all of the “bad” plate discipline categories and the bottom of the list in all of the “good” ones.  The BABIP will also lead people to believe that he’s just a lucky guy doing lucky things.  In reality, he’s turned that aggressive approach of his into a benefit for fantasy purposes by creating more balls in play.  They aren’t just ANY balls in play, though — they’re whistling line drives and bullets on the ground that are difficult for defenses to turn into outs.  We don’t even have to worry about changing tactics against him.  He’s partially  immune to pitchers changing their approach, as the guy will swing at just about anything, and if he gets a hold of it, there’s a 51% chance he’s going to send it back at 95+ mph.  Also, despite being a predictable pull hitter, he’s only been shifted against in 47 of his last 702 PAs, so we needn’t concern ourselves with that strategy (oh, and in those 47 shifts, he hit .340 mostly by smashing the ball right up the middle).

If you weren’t sure how you felt about Avisail Garcia, let him surprise you for a while on your fantasy roster.  Everybody else is.

Scott Chu

Scott Chu is a Senior Fantasy Analyst here bat Pitcher List and has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. He's also the inventor and mascot for Fantasy Curling (as seen the Wall Street Journal) and a 3x FSWA Award Finalist. In addition to being a fantasy analyst, he's a dad, animal lover, Simpsons fanatic, cartoon connoisseur, amateur curler, a CODA, and an attorney.

4 responses to “Going Deep: “Swing away, Avi. Avi? Swing away.””

  1. Taylor says:

    Love it. Thank you for being the one to play Devil’s advocate to what all the other writers all over the internet have been saying about him. Everything you said makes perfect sense and I love the visual/graphics aid. Keep up the good work!

    • Scott Chu says:

      Thanks, Taylor! I didn’t expect to be on this side of the argument (and I wasn’t at this time last year), but the more I looked into him, the more I saw that this success could be partially driven by skills and ability.

  2. PC says:

    This article only reinforces the likelihood that he will regress terribly in the near future. I don’t understand how you could lay out all those facts and then leap to the conclusion that swinging at anything in or outside the zone and never walking and relying on high BABIP is a good thing.

    • Scott Chu says:

      Most players probably cannot support the .374 BABIP Avisail has since the start of 2017, nor can they survive with the plate discipline he shows. What I hoped to show in the article is that Avisail Garcia is different from most players.

      His xBABIP (.357 last year, .360 this year) supports his high BABIP based on his batted ball profiles and exit velocity, and while he could certainly benefit from better plate discipline (his walk rate usually hovers around 6%, which isn’t good but is acceptable), putting the ball in play is a useful thing for fantasy purposes when you hit it as hard as Avi does. Plus, that approach isn’t leading to excessive strikeouts, popups, or soft contact.

      Regression may indeed come for him, but I think the blow will be much softer than others have indicated. There’s a top 150 hitter in there. The launch angle limits his HR upside, but he should be owned in 12+ team formats, particularly when his teammates are hitting the ball well like they are right now.

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