21-year-old Deivi Garcia will get the nod in game two of the ALCS on Tuesday night, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and others (via Twitter). Amazingly, Garcia will be the youngest pitcher to start a playoff game in Yankees’ postseason history and the 5th-youngest in AL postseason history, per ESPN’s Marly Rivera and ESPN Stats Info (via Twitter).
It’s a bold stroke for manager Aaron Boone. Garcia made just 6 starts during the regular season in his first taste of big league action. Garcia held his own, going 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA/4.15 FIP and 8.7 K/9 to 1.6 BB/9. His command was particularly impressive, never having limited free passes at such a stringent rate at any point in his minor league career when it’s typical for young players to struggle more with their command upon promotion to the bigs. Garcia’s 5’9″ stature and electric stuff has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez early in his career, and while that’s quite a lofty comparison at this stage, he certainly looks more and more like a player with cult potential in New York.
Over the small sample of major league innings we’ve seen thus far, Garcia averages a 91.9 mph four-seamer that serves as the bedrock offering in his arsenal, throwing it about 60% of the time, often up. The Dominican righty utilizes a 80.6 mph change-up away against lefties while mixing in a breaking ball about 12.5% of the time. Against right-handed batters, he goes to a slider/curveball combo more frequently, giving equal love to the slider and curve for a total usage rate of about 33%. He was the Yankees #1 prospect coming into the season.
It will be interesting to see how Boone chooses to manage Garcia. He could easily plan to pull the rookie after one or (likely at-most) two turns through the Rays lineup, though he’ll be helped by the fact that Rays hitters have not seen him in-game before. Boone has a number of long relievers he can call on to piggyback with Garcia if he so chooses. Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, and Michael King all have experience starting in the minor leagues. Montgomery might be the most-likely go-to, both because of his relatively strong season (3.87 FIP across 10 starts, 44 innings), but also because the southpaw might see platoon advantages, depending on how long Garcia goes and how aggressive the Rays are with their substitutions. The Rays tend to be fairly aggressive with pinch-hitters, even early in games, so platoon advantage alone likely won’t dictate much of the Yankees’ thinking early in the contest.
Masahiro Tanaka, then, will get the start in game three. The veteran weathered a tough outing in game two against Cleveland in the Wild Card round. Tanaka survived just four innings, walking three, yielding 5 hits, and 6 earned runs. The Yankees, of course, ultimately rallied to win the game and seal the series. Tanaka threw 77 pitches, and given the 6 full days he’ll have off between starts, he should be more than ready for Wednesday’s game three.