The calling card of the 2021 Houston Astros is their unrelenting lineup. Their daunting lineup produced three All-Stars: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Michael Brantley. Their offense deservedly gets the majority of the attention when talking about the Astros strengths. However, the starting rotation is formidable in its own right. In fact, according to ERA, Houston has the number one starting rotation in the American League. Their starters have a 3.32 ERA, best in the AL and fifth-best in all of baseball. One of the biggest reasons for their success is the breakout season of Luis Garcia.
Garcia made his debut in 2020, one of the many young pitchers to make their MLB debuts during the shortened season. He pitched just 12.1 innings, but was successful, giving up only four runs. Heading into 2021, he wasn’t promised a spot in the rotation. However, injuries to Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi thrust Garcia into a starting spot. It is safe to say the rookie made the most of his opportunity.
A Rock in the Rotation
With the majority of the rotation spending some time on the Injured List, Houston needed someone to give them some innings and Garcia has given them quality innings. The 24-year-old has pitched the second-most innings on the team, with 80.1. Of Astros who have pitched more than 70 innings, only Lance McCullers Jr. (2.97) has a better ERA than Garcia (3.14.) He is striking out opponents at a rate of 10.1 batters per nine innings. Overall, he leads the team with 90 batters fanned. His success has put him in the Rookie of the Year conversation and for good reason. Before his debut in 2020, Garcia had a very interesting path, internationally and in the Minors.
A Unique Path
Hailing from Venezuela, Garcia was eligible to be signed by teams as a teenager in 2013. However, he was not signed. In fact, no teams were interested in him until 2017, when the Astros signed the 20-year-old for $20,000. His short arm action and complicated delivery led to questions about whether he would stick as a starter. He has answered those questions with a resounding yes. Between 2017 and 2019, Garcia was extremely successful in the Minors. From Rookie ball to High-A over those three years, he posted a 2.50 ERA in 205 innings spending time as both a starter and a reliever. His swing and miss stuff was elite, striking out batters at a rate of 12.5 per nine. Heading into 2020, he was the Astros number 13 prospect.
His Minor League career was dominant and very brief. Garcia finished 2019 in Single-A, so one would assume he had a ways to go before reaching the big leagues. However, with the pandemic axing the Minor League season in 2020, the Astros made the decision to call up Garcia in September. Despite never pitching above Single-A, Garcia made his Major League debut on September 4, 2020.
Wrapping up a Great First Half
Garcia will pitch once more before the first half of the 2021 MLB season wraps up. His last start will come in an important three-game series against the second-place Oakland Athletics. Regardless of how this last start pans out, it was a great first half for the rookie. Garcia has shown the tendency to exceed all expectations placed on him from the beginning of his baseball career and has exhibited no signs of stopping.
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