Major League Baseball announced on Friday that Phillies minor league left-hander Elniery Garcia has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the banned substance Boldenone. Garcia’s suspension is of particular note given the fact that he is on the Phillies’ 40-man roster. He’ll now be moved to the restricted list for the next three months or so, thus reducing Philadelphia’s 40-man roster count to 38 players.
Garcia, 22, spent the 2016 season with the Phillies’ Class-A Advanced affiliate in Clearwater and is widely considered to be one of the organization’s most promising arms. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked him seventh among all Phillies prospects, while ESPN’s Keith Law pegged him ninth (subscription required/highly recommended) and Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com placed him 18th. Longehagen notes that Garcia made significant strides from Opening Day 2016 to season’s end, improving not only his velocity but his command of his secondary offerings. Law called him the system’s “most pleasant surprise,” and all three scouting reports linked above make mention of his confidence and competitive demeanor on the mound.
Today’s suspension will undoubtedly lead to some questions surrounding the velocity gains he made over the life of the 2016 season, though he obviously made it through the entire ’16 campaign without testing positive for a banned substance.
Garcia presumably wouldn’t have been considered for a promotion to the Majors in the near-term, as he’s yet to throw a pitch above the aforementioned High-A level, so the move doesn’t thin out the team’s immediate pitching depth all that much. But, it’s feasible that a club that is currently light on left-handed pitching could’ve given him a look at some point this summer. Beyond that, the loss of roughly three months of development is a clear negative in the long run for both Garcia and the Phillies. At the very least, it seemed reasonable to expect that Garcia had a chance to reach Triple-A by season’s end, but the 80-game absence significantly slows his path to the Majors.