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SBC Johnny Bench Award Watch List: Aramis Garcia

AramisGarcia90The Sun Belt Conference features three catchers on the initial watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top catcher in Division 1 college baseball.

Coming out of high school, Aramis Garcia was a special prospect.

Long time major league scout Dave Perkin described him as a “rarity…an athletic high school catching prospect with remarkably quick feet and fluid receiving skills.”

Closer and teammate Mike Gomez notes, “he’s probably one of the best  catchers I’ve ever pitched to, both mentally and physically. And i’ve played with some good catchers.”

FIU head coach Turtle Thomas sees something even more immediate: Garcia is just built like a catcher.

Standing at 6’2″ and 200 lbs, the sophomore backstop is an imposing figure behind the plate. What’s more, he possesses particular advantages for his position.

“He’s got these long arms, I don’t know if his sleeve length in long sleeve shirts is like a 36, but he’s got extremely long arms, making him a better receiver.”

His lengthy limbs have even drawn comparison to another South Florida baseball product.

“Back in the day, Charles Johnson was a great catcher and had extremely long arms,” added Thomas.

Johnson was a hall of fame catcher who, back in 1996, led all National League catchers in assists and was also tops among NL backstops in fielding percentage for two straight seasons (’96, ’97).

Those long arms, along with his 6’2″ frame, have helped Garcia turn some heads. The right-hander boasts a cannon for an arm. The average major league catcher takes two seconds to get the ball to second.

Garcia’s time? Clocked between 1.85 and 1.95.

And it’s not for show. Florida International leads the Sun Belt in runners caught, throwing out 22 potential base-stealers. Even more impressively, FIU has allowed a conference low 18 stolen bases so far. The next stingiest total is UALR’s 27 stolen bases allowed.

Again, Garcia is a special prospect. So special in fact that the St. Louis Cardinals decided that they would draft him out of high school. Despite his insistance on earning his degree, a major league organization that already houses the majors’ best farm system decided to take a 20th round chance on Garcia changing his mind.

He wasn’t going to change his mind. In his second year as a Physical Education major, Garcia was set on earning his degree. With that being said, make no mistake, the Golden Panthers’ catcher has professional aspirations. Asked where he sees himself in the next two to three years, Garcia answers simply, “working my way to the major leagues.”

Beyond the statement of his goal, Garcia has been testing himself repeatedly. He’s spent his summer, along with teammate Mike Gomez, playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Arguably the top destination for amateur baseball, “the Cape” has featured some notable prospects. One of those was none other than current Orioles star backstop Matt Weiters.

Garcia has his role models in the major leagues. He loves watching Yadier Molina, little surprise there. Outside of the majors, Garcia enjoys watching and competing against other collegiate catchers. “When we played Ole Miss, man. Stuart Turner. I like watching other catchers and that’s a guy I was really impressed with.” Turner is considered by many to be a first round draft pick in the upcoming MLB draft.

Garcia has been known for being a very solid defensive catcher. Last year, his batting showed some room for improvement. After finishing his freshman campaign with a .271 average, 6 homers, and 43 strikeouts, Garcia is now hitting at a .331 clip. He’s also beaten his home run total from last year, sending seven shots out of the park with just over half a season played.

Gomez puts it best: “Last year, he was chasing, making freshman mistakes. He gets in his own head sometimes. Once he figures out how good he really is, he’s going to be unstoppable.”