Austin Jackson’s hamstring injury has presented Avisail Garcia and the Detroit Tigers with a big opportunity. (Josh May, Flickr)
Before things get out of hand, let me begin this piece with a simple Detroit Tigers public service announcement. Austin Jackson’s not going anywhere in center field. He’s a solid player who’s continued development will lead to him becoming an everyday star in baseball.
With that out of the way, it still must be said. In Jackson’s absence, young Avisail Garcia needs to have his Lou Gehrig moment, and theoretically turn Jackson into Wally Pipp. Doing so will only help the Tigers moving forward the rest of this season, both now and later.
Jackson, as previously mentioned, certainly isn’t going anywhere. Garcia, however, could, being an extremely valuable asset to the Tigers in 2013. Not only can he play a bit part in the case of an extended outfield injury, he could theoretically become Detroit’s biggest trade chip prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
Last fall, Garcia showed solidly in the American League playoffs, starring against the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. He had a few clutch hits in each series, showing a knack for pinch hitting, drawing walks and knocking in runners in scoring position all while possessing a good arm. Those performances, however, might be considered a flash in the pan by many fans and scouts, given Garcia has been buried in the minors without consistent league time.
Unable to supplant Jackson, Torii Hunter or Andy Dirks in the outfield during camp, there was no consistent starting role for Garcia in Detroit for 2013, leaving him in limbo. Now, with Jackson’s hamstring injury, Garcia has a chance to prove he can hit consistently, play solid defense and look like an actual player rather than a man simply in the midst of a two week playoff hot streak.
The Tigers, who have become clogged a bit with young outfield talent, certainly look needy in a few spots prior to the trade deadline. Bullpen depth, be it in the form of a solid late inning man or top flight closer, could be a must as the summer wears on. Barring a blockbuster need opening up in the lineup, there’s no real reason to trade a blue chip prospect like Nick Castellanos. A package revolving around Garcia, however, could become a nice ticket towards solving the Tigers’ problems.
During this time Jackson is laid up, Garcia must play hungry and show he’s the five tool player he was during the playoffs. That makes this particular injury scenario an opportunity rather than a calamity for the lineup, and gives the Tigers a chance to not miss a beat. Garcia may even be able to wrestle back a spot in Detroit’s outfield one day.
If Garcia is able to produce like he looked capable of doing and exceed Jackson’s abilities in the process, Detroit could benefit both now and later.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax