Adonis Garcia has basically ridden a 58 game hot streak at the end of 2015 to over a year’s worth of plate appearances despite being barely above a replacement level player. He is fortunate that the Braves have lacked internal options, specifically when Jace Peterson was the team’s starting second baseman, to take over for him at third base and relegate Garcia to the bench. But the time he bought with a powerful end to his rookie campaign has passed, and it is time for the Braves to put someone else at third base, at least on a platoon basis.
Garcia’s numbers against left-handed pitching warrant at least a platoon role, given his career .316/.360/.485 line against southpaws. He is a general asset against lefties, which is helpful considering three of the Braves best hitters are left-handed hitters in Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis. Having a player who can crush left-handed hitters is valuable for almost any team, but not if they continue to get regular playing time against right-handed pitchers as well. The Braves are essentially starting the Matt Diaz every day at third base when there is a Ryan Langerhans ready and waiting on the bench. Jace Peterson is not a great hitter, but his 100 wRC+ over the past two years is much better than Garcia’s 78.
Even if the Braves do not want to commit to Peterson being the platoon partner for Garcia, Rio Ruiz would make a lot of sense. Traditionally, you do not want to put prospects in platoons as that hinders development. However, Ruiz is not the type of prospect you protect in this manner. The likely outcome for Ruiz’s career is platoon third baseman, and sometimes players need that initial push into positions to succeed as they begin their major league career. Ruiz could be called up and put into a situation where he faces only opposite handed hitters, which can give him the confidence to perform at the Major League level and work with the hitting coaches, scouting reports, and analytics available to him here.
On top of simply making third base better, having Ruiz in Atlanta will make the bench better. Garcia would start probably one third of the time, so having one of the two on the bench would strengthen the squad’s pinch hitting capabilities significantly. Garcia has played some outfield in the past, but the drawback to keeping both Ruiz and Garcia on the roster is a lack of positional flexibility. The Braves keep a rather consistent lineup, though, and Peterson’s flexibility makes up for a lot of what the Braves would lose by having two third base only bats on the bench. If the Braves want to move closer and closer toward competing, getting more value out of both third base and the bench is not just helpful but necessary. With the current pitching staff in place, they cannot afford to put out a free swinging, no speed, slightly powerful third baseman out there every day along with a bench that has little to no punch.
Garcia’s performance in 2015 warranted playing time last year, and the timing was right to see what we had with him. By now, we know what we have and it is time to see how a platoon would work with either Ruiz or Peterson. Calling up Ruiz would be the ideal move, as the team will get deeper and the lineup will be more consistent against right-handed pitchers.