LAKEWOOD, N.J. -- Luis Garcia understands the hype surrounding him, and how highly regarded he is among Phillies minor leaguers.
None of that matters to the middle infielder at low-Class A Lakewood.
All he would like is a few more hits.
The minor leagues are all about overcoming adversity, and Garcia is surely experiencing his share at the plate this season.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Garcia signed in July 2017 for $2.5 million, the largest investment the team has spent on the international market since Matt Klentak was named general manager in October 2015.
More recently, he was named The Inquirer’s No. 4 Phillies prospect.
Last season he came out smoking, hitting .369 for the Phillies West team to lead the the short-season Gulf Coast League in batting average.
In 43 games, he also led all qualifying Gulf Coast League shortstops with a .969 fielding percentage.
Now he is competing for Lakewood, playing in a pitcher’s ballpark. Garcia, who doesn’t turn 19 until Oct. 1, began the season as the fifth-youngest player in the South Atlantic League. A switch-hitter, he entered the weekend hitting .189.
“Here they keep going after you with the same pitch until you show you can make the adjustment,” Garcia said Thursday, with hitting coach Christian Marrero serving as interpreter. “They don’t make that many mistakes as they did in rookie ball.”
Marrero says that he likes how Garcia, who is a natural right-handed hitter, has dealt with his difficult start at the plate.
“It is probably the first time he has ever struggled, and that is part of his development and will make him stronger and a better player,” Marrero said. “The good thing is he has a positive attitude every time he comes to the ball park, every day he wants to get better.”
And the coach believes he will soon see the results of his hard work.
“He is putting in the work and things are going to turn around,” Marrero said. “He is just getting acclimated to his new environment.”
Like Marrero, Lakewood manager Mike Micucci sees positives recently in Garcia’s work at the plate.
“He has really done well over the last few weeks, as far as his approach at the plate, recognizing pitches, controlling the strike zone, swinging at better pitches and having better at-bats,” Micucci said. “I think overall the results will come because his at-bats have been much better.”
Garcia has always been a shortstop, but this season he is playing second base as well. His good friend and fellow Dominican Republic resident Jonathan Guzman, who turns 20 in August, has also been playing shortstop and second base.
“This is the first time I made the jump to second base, but the Phillies want me to learn multiple positions,” Garcia said. “It is a different angle, closer to the base, but little by little I am learning.”
Micucci says that despite his struggles, Garcia has been a pleasure to coach.
“He is an awesome kid, great to be around,” Micucci said. “He and Guzman are like twins, doing everything together, and they are great kids.”
One thing Garcia won’t worry about is living up to the hype. He understands it is there but says it has no bearing on how he approaches his job.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I knew once I came to the organization I was highly ranked, and I just go about my business day in and day out.”
Like his hitting coach and manger, Garcia feels better days this season are clearly ahead.