Powell: Where Does Avi Garcia Fit Into The White Sox Rebuild?

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White Sox outfielder Avi Garcia. (WGN Radio/Kevin Powell)

By Kevin Powell

No one anticipated this kind of year from Avi Garcia except for maybe, Avi Garcia. This season felt like a make or break year for the 26-year-old Venezuelan. Would he mold himself into a legitimate every day starter, or begin to fade from the rebuild conversation?

“He’s obviously putting a pretty good season together,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said before Wednesday night’s game. “Not just pretty good, probably top notch in every aspect of his game. He’s working extremely hard, showing a lot of hustle. He’s showing a lot of at-bats that are clutch, and is playing excellent defense.

“So if there’s anybody that epitomizes being an All-Star right now, he’s certainly one of the guys that I would root for.”

Everything about Garcia just feels different this year, from his physical build (he shed 20 pounds in the offseason) to his overall confidence.

“As you’ve seen him perform right now, you kind of think, yea, this is a kid that’s potentially one of the guys that’s a piece of the puzzle. …You have to make a determination as to whether this is who you think his is based on one season.”

The Sox don’t necessarily need to rush to determine if Garcia is the real deal or if he is a key player for a team that hopes to be contending in 3-5 years. It’s not like he’s clogging up a roster spot for any prospects. His contract runs through the 2019 season. And he seems to have finally settled in as a bona fide everyday major league starter.

Heading into Wednesday night’s game, Garcia was slashing .339/.378/.555. Among American League outfielders, his batting average is second only to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, the best player on the planet right now. He’s right behind Judge in RBI’s. And has the third highest OPS behind, you guessed it, Aaron Judge along with Yankee teammate Aaron Hicks. Even his defense has improved.

So, what will the Sox do? A contract that runs through 2019 doesn’t exactly line up with their competitive timeline. It’s still too early to hand Garcia a new, longer contract. We’re not even halfway through the season. But if Garcia does keep this up for the rest of the year, maybe management does commit to a long-term deal.

Regardless, what Garcia is doing this year is impressive. And if he keeps it up, in a few years he could anchor a lineup featuring Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and whoever else Rick Hahn and company acquire over the next few seasons.

As Renteria put it: “Based on what he’s doing right now, he sure does look like a piece of the future.”

He sure does.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720