Nationals call up ‘future at shortstop’ Luis García, place Alcides Escobar on IL

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Nats call up ‘future at shortstop’ García, place Escobar on IL originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Luis García has made it back to the majors.

The Nationals called up their 22-year-old shortstop Wednesday to replace Alcides Escobar, who landed on the 10-Day Injured List with a right hamstring strain. He was listed in their lineup batting seventh for their series finale against the New York Mets.

Once a consensus top-100 prospect, García spent the first seven weeks of this season in Triple-A Rochester to work on rounding out his game. He appeared in 110 games for the Nationals over the last two years, showing flashes of star talent but experiencing long droughts at the plate and struggling to establish himself defensively. In all, he hit .254 with eight home runs, a .680 OPS and 16 errors.

So the Nationals re-signed Escobar to a one-year deal last offseason and made him their Opening Day shortstop. But as the 35-year-old stumbled out to a slow start, García showed his bat was ready for another go at big-league pitching. He carried over his strong finish to the 2021 campaign, hitting .314 with eight homers and an .899 OPS in 42 games for the Red Wings.

For two months, the Nationals kept García in the minors as both GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez stressed that they wanted him to work on his defense and baserunning. His play at shortstop did appear to improve. After recording four errors in five games to begin the season, García went 26 games before recording another miscue.

Red Wings manager Matt LeCroy spoke with NBC Sports Washington in a phone interview Tuesday about García’s defense. He’s seen García more locked in from pitch to pitch, allowing him to be more prepared when balls are hit his way.

Infield coordinator José Alguacil has worked with him on “his angles, his reads on certain balls, his throwing, getting his feet underneath him [and] getting his direction toward first,” LeCroy said. Nationals coaches Gary DiSarcina and Tim Bogar formulated a plan for him and “we’ve been able to implement a lot of the stuff they wanted him to work on during the season and he’s taken to it.”

By keeping García in the minors through May 25, the Nationals were also able to gain a year of team control over the young infielder. According to FanGraphs, García entered the season with 1 year and 37 days of service time. In making his season debut after May 25, he couldn’t accrue the 172 days necessary to count as a full season. As a result, the Nationals now have his rights through 2027.

It can be tough on any player to be stuck in the minor leagues when they’re hitting as well as García has this season, but LeCroy believes he’s handled the situation well.

“He knows what we’re trying to do here,” LeCroy said. “He knows that there’s a plan in place to make sure that when he gets the call, he’s ready [and] there’s no setbacks…I know it’s tough at times when you’re doing the job and you feel like you’re not getting a chance but Louie knows he’s in the plans. There’s no doubt about it, he’s a piece of the puzzle that can hopefully bring us another championship back to D.C. and I think he’s waiting for that moment and preparing for that moment every day.”

With Escobar now sidelined, García will get his chance to stick with Washington. Rizzo called him their “future at shortstop” in a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies. Martinez has said the Nationals hope García won’t ever be sent back down once he did make it up. If he can carry over his success from Triple-A, they’ll never have to.