LAS VEGAS -- Reed Garrett turned heads with a breakout season out of the bullpen in the Rangers' farm system. The Tigers hope the right-hander can do the same in their bullpen after selecting him in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
Garrett isn't the high-profile prospect many expected the Tigers to take with the fifth overall pick. But with late-inning experience and high strikeout and ground-ball rates, Detroit believes the 25-year-old can give them outs from what will likely be a fairly young bullpen.
The Tigers will have to carry him on their roster through the season in order to keep him long term, or offer him back to the Rangers. But Detroit believes he can stick.
"He's got a real good arm, been up to 100 [mph], plus breaking ball, slider and curveball," Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. "He had some success this past year closing games. We see him in the bullpen, a real viable candidate, and we're happy to be able to select him."
The Rule 5 Draft each December allows teams to add young talent by plucking prospects who aren't on other organizations' 40-man rosters. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or become eligible to be drafted. Players signed at age 19 or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
• 2018 Rule 5 Draft results
The 25-year-old Garrett was a 2014 16th-round draft pick with a relatively mundane Minor League resume until he converted to a full-time reliever in '17. The Double-A Frisco closer dominated Texas League hitters this past season with a 1.69 ERA, .204 batting average against and 46 strikeouts over 42 2/3 innings before earning a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock.
Combine the two stops, and Garrett posted 21 saves and a 2.04 earned run average in 51 games, allowing 54 hits over 61 2/3 innings with 20 walks and 61 strikeouts. His 1.20 WHIP in 2018 sat well under his 1.39 career ratio, while his ERA was less than half his career mark.
Also intriguing is a 1.43 groundball ratio, allowing him to get outs on contact as well as through strikeouts.
"His stuff kind of ticked up, moving from starting opportunities to the bullpen," Littlefield said. "Some guys adjust better than others. Usually there's a jump up in velocity for sure. But he performed very well."
While Garrett's fastball can hit triple digits, Littlefield said, it generally sits around 94-97 mph.
Looking to save roster spots, the Rangers left Garrett unprotected, hoping he could sneak through.
"You don't know who is going to be taken. You don't know," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "There were other pitchers we considered protecting that didn't get taken.
"My guess is he's going to a team that keeps him. It's a great opportunity for him. If I had to bet on it, we won't get him back. At some point, you've got to make some decisions and take some calculated gambles. That's what it was. We were hoping we weren't going to lose him but that's part of the deal."
Relief prospects are often popular Rule 5 Draft targets because teams can stash them in the back of the bullpen, where a manager can pick and choose situations for him to get Major League experience. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has experience with this from his days as Twins manager.
Gardenhire carried outfielder Victor Reyes on the roster last season after Detroit made him the top overall pick in last year's Rule 5 Draft. Reyes struggled for playing time early in the season, but he ended up becoming a useful fourth outfielder by season's end.
The Tigers had a few relief arms on their list, Littlefield said, but centered on Garrett. They had been rumored to have interest in hard-throwing Astros prospect Riley Ferrell, but he went one pick earlier to Miami.
The Tigers didn't lose any players in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Double-A Erie right-hander Andrew Schwaab went to the Red Sox in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while Detroit drafted outfielder Tyler Hill from Boston's system in the same phase.