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Tigers take RHP Rony Garcia in Rule 5 Draft

@beckjason
December 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Tigers went into the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday looking for someone who can make an impact next season, not just for someone to stash on the roster. They hope Yankees right-hander Rony Garcia is the man to do it. For the second time in three

SAN DIEGO -- The Tigers went into the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday looking for someone who can make an impact next season, not just for someone to stash on the roster. They hope Yankees right-hander Rony Garcia is the man to do it.

For the second time in three years, the Tigers used the top pick in the Rule 5 Draft on a young player at Double-A with the tools to make the jump. With Garcia, they believe the 21-year-old's pitching arsenal has upside beyond the basic stats, enough to take a chance.

Teams that select a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft pay $100,000 to the player's former organization. The team then must either keep the player on the Major League roster for the entire season, or offer him back to his old organization for $50,000.

"The Rule 5 Draft, quite frankly, if you have the roster spot, it's a free look," general manager Al Avila said. "And if you don't like him in Spring Training or after a month, you just move on. It's not that risky."

Though Garcia posted a 4-11 record in 20 starts at Trenton and was not ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Yankees prospects, his secondary stats show a better performance, including 104 strikeouts and 94 hits allowed over 105 1/3 innings. His 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings marked the highest rate of his four-year pro career at his highest level so far.

"He's a good-sized kid with a good arm," Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield said. "Four-pitch pitcher, been a starter. For a group that's looking to add some pitching, we've got some reports on him, had a variety of people see him, and we think it's a good fit for us for the team that we have."

Garcia is expected to fill a bullpen role in Detroit, possibly long relief. His velocity could play up in a shorter role, but the key is his mix, including a cutter that flummoxed hitters as the season went on.

One Eastern League evaluator who saw Garcia a few times during the season said he looked better each time, showing poise and polish beyond his age. Garcia posted a 3.39 ERA over his final 11 starts, allowing 47 hits over 61 innings with 21 walks and 61 strikeouts.

"More cutters later in the year, I think, helped him improve the K's," one evaluator told MLB.com.

In addition to scouting reports, the Tigers had first-hand knowledge from their Double-A affiliate in Erie. Garcia tossed five scoreless innings on one hit with eight strikeouts on April 28, but used 101 pitches. He yielded three runs on seven hits over four innings and 89 pitches with four strikeouts in the July 29 rematch in Erie.

Garcia has his issues, such as efficiency. But for a team with bullpen voids and three open 40-man roster spots coming off a 114-loss season, he's worth a look.

"When you start getting to where the roster is a little tight and you want to add some Major League free agents, you have to be a little bit more careful," Avila said. "There's talent there, but the obvious thing is the majority of [Rule 5 Draft picks] aren't going to stick unless you're committed to this, and you're going to see it through like we have been at some point in the past. But in this case, I think we have a guy that maybe can do both things: He's still a prospect but can maybe still contribute enough to where we're not just carrying this guy."

The Tigers also selected two players in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They used the first pick of the Triple-A phase on righty reliever Ruben Garcia, who struck out 43 batters over 31 1/3 innings in 20 games at the Class A level in the Orioles' organization. Detroit opened the Double-A phrase by drafting infielder Brian Schales, who batted .188 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 52 games among three levels of the Twins' farm system.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.