A routine grounder to short, a slide into second and a freakish, season-altering injury -- such was the fate for Aramis Garcia during the second inning of Class A Advanced San Jose's game against Rancho Cucamonga on May 22.
The Giants' No. 6 prospect singled to left with one out and took off for second when teammate Jonah Arenado hit a grounder to shortstop. In his attempt to break up the double play, Garcia's face connected with Quakes second baseman Tim Locastro's knee. The result was a facial fracture that necessitated surgery and led the 23-year-old catcher to spend more than two months on the disabled list.
"It was definitely tough," he said. "It was the first major injury I really had to endure and also my first surgery of any kind. There really wasn't much I could do at first, so I tried to exercise as much as possible and do whatever I could to stay in shape. About two weeks after the injury, I started going back to the field to watch the games and be around the guys. I missed it and wanted to be a good teammate."
San Francisco's second-round pick in the 2014 Draft enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first full year as a professional in 2015. The Florida International product produced a slash line of .264/.342/.431 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs in 103 games with Class A Augusta and San Jose. He was in the California League again to start this past season and was off to a strong start, batting .298 with 14 RBIs in 25 games before the injury. After a six-game rehab assignment with the Giants' Rookie-level Arizona League team, Garcia returned to San Jose on Aug. 9 but hit just .200 over his final 16 games.
"It was tough," the Florida native said. "Obviously it was a challenge to miss that much time and get back into it. It was like another offseason. I went more than two months without playing competitively and then to try and jump back in while guys are finishing up was hard. It was a challenge, but I wasn't afraid to take it head-on. The process was long and I was itching to get back out there by the time my rehab assignment came about."
Now fully healed, Garcia is using the Arizona Fall League to soak up as much information as he can while also making up for the time he missed during the regular season.
"Obviously one of my primary goals was to get as many at-bats as possible," he said. "That combined with having the opportunity to play at such a high level with such talented players, I wanted to take advantage of it and learn anything I could. [The AFL] has been extremely beneficial for me, and not only in terms of getting at-bats and playing. I'm learning a lot of stuff about myself both offensively and defensively and making adjustments that I believe will help next season."
Although Garcia's AFL numbers are not up to par with his own lofty expectations, he's still having the time of his life playing on the Scottsdale team, which also includes former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
"It's great, especially in this clubhouse with a lot of talented guys," he said. "It's great to learn, hear and watch the way guys go about their business. You can pick up a lot of things that way and implement them to tailor your own game.
"As for Tim, he's great. I think everyone can see how much of a hard worker he is, but he's also just another one of the guys in the clubhouse. He's a good guy with a nice personality and he's a good guy to be around."
Despite losing precious developmental time, Garcia has been able to take a lot of positives out of his season, as frustrating as it may have been at the time.
"The first thing I learned was how fortunate we are to play this game," he said. "Just one, simple slide into second and my season was almost completely finished. It really puts things into perspective. I learned a lot by coming back and seeing what it takes to get the body ready. I really feel that going through this will make a huge difference for me heading into next year."
Cruising Corey: Mets right-hander Corey Oswalt continues to impress in AFL competition following an injury-abbreviated season in the Mets system. Through seven starts with the Scorpions, the 23-year-old is tied for the AFL lead with four wins to go along with a 3.33 ERA in 27 innings. After allowing six runs in his first two starts, Oswalt has a 1.64 ERA in his last five appearances.
Ry-ding high: Ryder Jones may not garner as much attention as other prospects, but the 22-year-old has followed up a career year at Double-A Richmond with a sizzling AFL campaign. The Giants farmhand belted a career-high 15 homers and tied his personal best with 67 RBIs for the Flying Squirrels in 2016. Through 17 games with Scottsdale, the Seattle native has slashed .300/.373/.433 with two homers and 11 RBIs.