If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

Vinnie Duber
NBC Sports Chicago

There are two questions surrounding Avisail Garcia.

1. Can he repeat the career year he had in 2017?

2. Is he a part of the White Sox long-term future?

Those questions are linked together, of course, with the answer to the second depending on the answer to the first. But the thing is, even if the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second question is anything but determined.

Garcia was terrific last season, quietly one of the best hitters in the American League. He ranked second in the AL with a .330 batting average, a mark second only to league MVP Jose Altuve. He ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage, trailing only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Altuve, Eric Hosmer and Joe Mauer. His 18 home runs were a career high, as were his 80 RBIs, 75 runs scored, 171 hits, 27 doubles and his .506 slugging percentage.

The 2017 season - which also included his first All-Star appearance - was a culmination of Garcia's quest for big league success, which had long been forecasted but never attained even though he's been a major leaguer since 2012, when he came up as a 21-year-old with the Detroit Tigers.

But because this was the first real full season of sustained success at the major league level, the question still remains if he can do it again.

Garcia thinks he will no doubt be able to prove anyone who thinks he was a one-year wonder wrong.

"100 percent. Nothing changes," he said before SoxFest festivities got going last weekend at the Hilton Chicago. "No pressure. Confidence. Positive. I work hard, so you've got to get confidence and be positive. If you're negative, no chance. You've got to be positive and do your best to get better every year.

"It's hard. You think a lot. I talked to myself, 'You've got to do something.' Because I know the talent's there. So that was my confidence. I knew the talent was there, and I said to myself, 'You've got to do something different.'

"I lost weight, started eating better. I'm working out at 5 a.m., go to hit and then go back to my house. That's my whole routine for the offseason last year and this year."

Right now, Garcia's bat is fixed squarely in the middle of the White Sox batting order, right alongside Jose Abreu, the other half of the team's dynamic hitting duo. If he can keep his 2017 success going into 2018, it's not going anywhere - unless it does.

Much like Abreu, Garcia's name was ths subject of much speculation this offseason, speculation that the White Sox could capitalize on his career year and send him elsewhere in exchange for more young talent to add to Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort. Garcia's contract, one that has him under team control for only the next two seasons, helped fuel that speculation, as well.

That obviously didn't happen, but a first half of 2018 that mimics what he did in 2017 could bring that speculation back. With the White Sox not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, a Garcia trade - in the middle of the 2018 season or after it - could add some more pieces for the future. And the better he hits, the better a return package becomes.

But the better he hits, the more attractive a potential contract extension becomes. Garcia is just 26 years old and could definitely line up with all the highly touted prospects making their way through the White Sox organization. Even if the team isn't expecting its contention window to open fully until the 2020 season, Garcia could be an anchor of the lineup and in the outfield.

It's what leaves that second question unanswered.

The existence of so many options is a good thing for Hahn and his front office. Garcia, though, is worrying about keeping the good vibes from last season going.

"I don't know what's going to happen because I only have two years," Garcia told NBC Sports Chicago. "I want to stay here for sure, but you know how baseball is so you wonder if you're here or you go to another place. So who knows. I want to be here. I want to be part of this team for a long time, but let's see what happens.

"I don't pay attention to all that (speculation) because if you read the papers or internet, you'll go crazy. So you don't have to read anything, don't worry about anything. Just worry about yourself and worry about your preparation."

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