VENICE, Fla. — Anybody who says they can predict what Deivi Garcia turns into suffers from 3D: de Blasio Delusion Disease.
Is it possible Garcia, the Yankees’ highly-rated pitching prospect, will develop into the 2017-18 version of Luis Severino, who went 33-14 and was considered among the best in the American League?
Or will he turn into Manny Banuelos, who at 18 was being hailed as a future big league ace after going 9-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 25 games (19 starts) for Low-A Charleston? Injuries ate the lefty up and he never came close to stardom. He went 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA for the 2015 Braves in seven games (six starts) and 3-4 with a 6.93 ERA for last year’s White Sox in 16 games (eight starts). Banuelos, who will turn 29 on March 13, was invited to the Mariners’ camp as a non-roster participant this year.
Garcia pitched in Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A last year when he pushed himself into the conversation for a September call up, but finished the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In his first two stops, Garcia went 4-6 in 15 starts, struck out 120 and gave up 57 hits in 71¹/₃ innings. He struggled in 11 games (five starts) at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he allowed 39 hits and fanned 45 in 40 innings.
With starters James Paxton (back surgery) out until at least May and Severino (Tommy John) done for the season, the Yankees have two openings in the rotation.
Garcia, 20, made his first exhibition season start Friday in a 5-3 Yankees win over the Braves at CoolToday Park amid voices wondering if the 5-foot-9, 163-pound right-hander could muscle his way into a major league job.
“I can tell you that I am the type of person who likes to compete,’’ Garcia said about having the mindset of a big leaguer. “I like challenges and I like competition. If the opportunity comes it would be great.’’
In two innings, Garcia gave up two runs, one hit, walked one and struck out three. The hit was a two-run homer by Johan Camargo in the second after Garcia got ahead of Ender Inciarte, 0-2, and walked him.
“He loses the hitter 0-2 and gives up a home run. Things to clean up and correct and talk about, but overall I thought he threw the ball really well,’’ Aaron Boone said of Garcia, who is working to add a slider to his curveball, change-up and fastball collection.
Before the game, Boone was asked if all things being equal would he prefer experience for a starter in the rotation.
“Probably, but sometimes skill set and where they are, you push yourself into the picture a little bit,’’ Boone said. “At the end of the day this is the big leagues and we are playing for a lot. Guys leapfrog guys and so be it.’’
If Garcia is a legitimate rotation candidate he is in a field that includes Jordan Montgomery, Michael King, Clarke Schmidt and Jonathan Loaisiga. Montgomery and Loaisiga have the most majore league experience. King has one big-league game but is 24. Thanks to Tommy John surgery, Schmidt has less professional experience than Garcia but he dazzled scouts with a two-inning outing Thursday against the Rays when he struck out three in two innings and displayed a dominating curveball.
Last spring, Garcia was in minor league camp. Friday, he faced Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Nick Markakis and Marcell Ozuna.
“You got to feel proud of the opportunity to compete at this level,’’ Garcia said. “I like competing independently of who you are facing.’’
Garcia, who looks up to Pedro Martinez but hasn’t met him, wasn’t dominant Friday, but 25 of the 37 pitches were strikes.
Banuelos or Severino before the injuries? Or somewhere in the middle? Make a guess because that’s all it is now.