Maikel Garcia's rookie season couldn't have been much better. He hit well, fielded well, and appears to be the long-term third base fit the KC Royals have searched for since they traded Mike Moustakas to Milwaukee in the summer of 2018.
Proof of just how good Garcia's 2023 season was is in the numbers. He hit .272, doubled 20 times, and stole 23 bases. He had the best OAA and DRP among American League third basemen, and was second-best in those metrics in the majors.
But this writer's choice for Royals Rookie of the Year isn't winning, or reaping nominations for, any national awards. For example, his superb hot corner defense wasn't good enough for those who nominated three other AL third basemen for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
And he didn't make the grade for the recently-revealed MLB Pipeline 2023 All-Rookie Team. Pipeline chose Texas third-sacker Josh Jung instead.
Whether Jung was a better choice than Kansas City's Garcia is debatable.
Should Maikel Garcia have been MLB Pipeline's choice at third base?
To be sure, simply wondering if Garcia should have beaten out Jung for the All-Rookie team is no knock on Jung. Jung, who the Rangers snatched up in the first round of the 2019 amateur draft (he was the eighth overall selection), had a stellar rookie campaign, slashing .266/.315/.467 with 23 homers and 70 RBIs while appearing in one less game (122) than Garcia.
Only in home runs and RBIs, though, was Jung remarkably better in traditional metrics than Garcia; KC's third baseman homered only four times and drove in 20 fewer runs than Jung.
But Garcia stole 22 bases more than Jung, who swiped only one. And Garcia wins out defensively — Jung's OAA was 5, his DRP 4, while Garcia mars of 13 OAA and 10 DRP.
So, what made the difference? Three things, probably. Home runs, a category in which Jung was so much better than Garcia, are more glamorous and attract more attention than other offensive feats, Jung's OPS+ and wRC+ considerably outdistanced Garcia's, and Jung plays on a highly successful team, something Garcia may not enjoy for some time to come.
(And just to fuel the debate fire a bit, Minnesota's Royce Lewis, who hit .309 with 15 home runs and a .372 OBP in only 58 games, beat out Garcia for Pipeline's All-Rookie second team).
Who, then should have been Pipeline's third baseman? The answer is, as they say, in the eyes of the beholder, but Garcia certainly merits being included in the conversation.