You might as well call FIU junior catcher Aramis Garcia “Mr. Clean.”
From his baseball ability to his 3.75 grade-point average as a sports and fitness major and even his dorm-room habits, Garcia has a spotless reputation.
“When he speaks, people listen,” FIU coach Turtle Thomas said. “He’s as good a kid as I’ve seen in 37 years of coaching — a spectacular young man.”
FIU shortstop Julius Gaines, who has roomed with Garcia since their freshman years, finds it difficult to come up with any negatives about his friend.
“We’ve never really had an argument,” Gaines said. “He’s the super-clean type [in the dorm].
“His head is on straight. He works hard at everything he does — he is the whole package.”
Baseball America can certainly vouch for Garcia’s ability on the field, ranking him the 44th best college prospect in the nation. Garcia is the top hitting prospect among South Florida collegians — only University of Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez at No. 23 is rated higher overall.
Among the college catchers eligible for this year’s draft, Garcia ranks third behind Kyle Schwarber of Indiana and Grayson Greiner of South Carolina.
Overall, it looks like a fairly weak draft for catchers with only one high school back-stopper — Alex Jackson of California — ranked among the nation’s top 30 prep prospects. That fact could vault Garcia up the draft charts as long as he has a strong junior year – not that the FIU standout is focused on much beyond team goals.
“I’m not a stat guy,” said Garcia, a 6-2, 220-pound right-handed hitter and thrower. “But if there is one stat I care about, it’s passed balls. One of my goals this season is to not allow a passed ball.”
Garcia said he is also looking to drive more balls to the opposite field this season, which would further impress scouts.
Out of Pembroke Pines Charter High School, Garcia was a 20th-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals. He has since improved his stock, hitting .271 with six homers and 29 RBI as a freshman and .321 with 11 homers and 51 RBI as a sophomore.
He was first on the team in average and homers and second in RBI last season, when he was named first-team All-Sun Belt Conference.
This season, which begins for FIU on Feb. 14 against visiting Rutgers, marks a switch to Conference USA. The Panthers are looking for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011 and, ultimately, their first College World Series showing ever.
Garcia’s performance — at the plate and how he handles the pitching staff — will go a long way toward determining the team’s success.
Thomas said Garcia is a good base-runner and not slow. But as far as being a plus tool, speed is certainly not Garcia’s forte.
However, Thomas believes Garcia’s other tools — hitting, catching, throwing and hitting for power — are all outstanding, which is why he is rated so highly.
“If Aramis has a weakness, he will target it and improve,” Gaines said. “Every year, he has improved in some aspect.”