Bryan Garcia has a real chance to win an MLB role

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 14: Bryan Garcia #33 of the Detroit Tigers stands on the mound after giving up a go-ahead three-run home run to Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Comerica Park on September 14, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 14: Bryan Garcia #33 of the Detroit Tigers stands on the mound after giving up a go-ahead three-run home run to Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Comerica Park on September 14, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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After a taste of the big leagues in 2019, Bryan Garcia looks to win one of a few bullpen spots up for grabs this spring

The 2016 MLB draft for the Detroit Tigers was unique for a couple of reasons. The Tigers had made one last push to contend the off-season prior; signing both Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann to long-term contracts. Both players were subject to draft pick compensation, so the Tigers forfeited both their second and third round picks after selecting Matt Manning ninth overall.

Also interesting was the club’s approach to the draft – they loaded up on relief pitchers. Historically, good relief pitchers often have a background in starting and then shifting their role at some point in the minor leagues. Detroit, though, had understandably grown tired of the bullpen struggles they had dealt with their entire window of contention.

Detroit would select four relief pitchers in rounds 5-15. One of those selections came in the 6th round–where they would select University of Miami closer Bryan Garcia. Garcia had great success the year he was drafted for The U; pitching 38 innings in 35 games for the Hurricanes and racking up 55 strikeouts while turning in a 1.89 ERA.

Garcia predictably flew through the minor leagues before getting tripped up with Tommy John Surgery and missing the entire 2018 campaign. The right-handed reliever would reach Toledo quickly in 2019 where he flourished. A 2.97 ERA over 33.1 innings and nearly a strikeout per inning  with Toledo yielded a trip up I-75 to Detroit to make his MLB debut.

Garcia looks to stay north in 2020, and with multiple spots available, there is a real chance Garcia makes the club out of spring. The stuff is good enough to play in the major leagues in a mid-relief role; the fastball runs somewhere between 92-96 mph with a good slider and a change-up to keep hitters honest. From MLB Pipeline: “The Tigers see Garcia as next in line to make the progression as a late-inning reliever, kind of like Joe Jimenez when he debuted a few years ago.” We all know how high the Tigers were on Joe as he came through the minors, so Detroit comparing the two speaks to his ceiling as a late-inning option.

Looking at the construction of the bullpen and assuming the Tigers carry eight relievers (remember, teams can carry 26 players this year), Garcia has a good chance. Joe Jimenez, Buck Farmer, Rony Garcia, and Jose Cisnero all have an inside-track at a roster spot. Assuming neither of Kyle Funkhouser or Beau Burrows make the team as relievers,there are four spots to be had between Bryan Garcia, David McKay, Anthony Castro, Gregory Soto, Alex Wilson, and John Schreiber.

Add in that Garcia has yet to allow a run this spring in limited appearances, continued success should thrust him ahead of the pack. For the relievers that are on the edge of the roster as Garcia is, there are two possible outcomes. The first would be that Garcia has a fast start to the season; in which case he would quickly get inserted into some high-leverage sixth or seventh inning spots.

Conversely and more likely–Garcia has one of those constant up-and-down seasons as performance and injuries both cause a game of hot potato along the state line. The Tigers, as I have outlined above, have a ton of relief options. None of those listed have particularly high ceilings, so I envision Detroit thumbing through each name, trying to find a hot hand, and then rolling with it.

Will that hot hand be Garcia? Who knows; especially considering the volatility that exists within the position itself. Look for the Tigers to figure that out and for Garcia to get his fair shake during the 2020 season.

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