Luis García isn’t a power hitter. At least, he hasn’t been throughout his professional career. The 20-year-old infielder hit a total of 12 home runs in 1,308 minor league plate appearances.
So when García stepped to the plate Monday night in Atlanta and launched a 410-foot blast to right-center for his first home run in his ninth career major league plate appearance, his manager had some particular words of advice once he returned to the dugout.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Davey Martinez said on a postgame Zoom call. “Remember who you are. Stay in the middle of the field.”
As impressed as he was with García’s second-inning homer, Martinez was more impressed with the line drive he hit to third one inning later. Yes, it was caught by a diving Austin Riley, who touched third base for an inning-ending double play. But the process that led to that result - an inside-out swing and a line drive hit the other way - brought a smile to the manager’s face.
“That tells me a lot about him,” Martinez said. “He’s going to have a lot of success in this league.”
If all of this sounds a bit like what the Nationals have seen from Juan Soto over the last two-plus years, you’re not wrong. Though they are different players with different skills and different bodies, the two young Dominican stars have a lot in common.
And García is doing everything he can to emulate his slightly older teammate.
Plenty of folks noticed it at spring training, when the 20-year-old Garcia showed up in West Palm Beach not only physically bigger than he was the previous season but with a swing and an approach at the plate that mirrored Soto.
To wit: When he gets two strikes on him, Garcia spreads out his stance and tries to hit the ball to the opposite field.
“I asked him in 2017 what pitch he looks (for) when he goes to two-strike count,” García said after Monday’s game, showing off his improving English. “He said: ‘Look for fastball outside, every day.’ I said: ‘OK, I do like you.’ “
Three games into his big league career, García is doing his best to live up to the lofty standard Soto set as a rookie in 2018. He’s 3-for-13 with a double, a homer and four RBIs. Sure, he’s still looking for his first walk, and he’s been a bit overaggressive at the plate at times, leading to four strikeouts.
But the approach is there. As is the desire to keep learning and improving.
“The kid’s a player,” Martinez said. “He loves to play the game. He goes up there, he works good at-bats, he battles. You watch him, he’s pretty smart. All you’ve got to do is tell him once where to play, and he’s got it. You don’t have to move him around.”
García isn’t quite as charismatic as Soto. Or, at least, he’s not showing it publicly as much yet. But he’s got personality. And he enjoyed showing off his dance moves in the dugout following his first home run, which made him the first major leaguer born in 2000 to circle the bases.
“I’m a very good dancer,” he insisted. “A little bit nervous, but I’m a very good dancer.”
And if things continue to go as he and the Nationals believe they will, there should be more opportunities to show it.
“I’m so happy to be here,” García said. “I tried to help the team when I can, win a lot of games and win another championship. I’m so excited.”