Detroit Tigers Rule 5 selection Rony Garcia has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year
When the Detroit Tigers selected Rony Garcia first overall in the annual Rule 5 Draft in December 2019, GM Al Avila was clear they wanted to select a player they felt could help the big league club this year. Unfortunately, Garcia has not been able to do much of that this season out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers this year.
Saying Rony Garcia might be one of the worst pitchers in Major League Baseball is not hyperbole–it is fact. He ranks in the first percentile in xwOBA, xSLG, xBA, and xERA according to Statcast while averaging 13.5 hits per nine innings and averages nearly two baserunners every inning across his 12 appearances in 2020.
Garcia had never hit the major leagues with the New York Yankees before the Tigers’ selection in the Rule 5 Draft but would make the Opening Day roster with Detroit. As a brief reminder, the Rule 5 Draft was designed to prevent players from being blocked from Major League rosters. If a player is with an organization 4-5 years (depending on when exactly they signed) but was not placed on that club’s 40-Man Roster, that player would be subject to Rule 5 Draft eligibility.
Rule 5 draftees must be on the teams’ active roster for the season following their selection, so if Rony Garcia were sent down to the minors, he would actually be returned to the Yankees from which he came from.
Considering this, returning Garcia to the Yankees at this point in time seems highly unlikely with just two weeks left in the regular season and the Detroit Tigers all but removed from any playoff aspirations. So what to do with Rony?
What the Issue Isn’t for Rony Garcia
Garcia’s effectiveness in shorter stints versus his long relief outings or starts could be interesting as many failed starters end up effective relievers (as we have witnessed with Gregory Soto this year). Earlier in the season, this may have been true. All three of Garcia’s outings of one inning or less in August resulted in zero runs allowed. However, after a scoreless one-inning performance on 9/1, Garcia would give up eight runs over his next three outings of one inning or less and now has a WHIP of 3.69(!) in September. The sample size proved slight.
Examining his days in between appearances was also a point of emphasis. Pitching back-to-back games and struggling might speak to a conditioning issue or struggling with long layoffs may suggest he is unable to stay crisp when hanging out in empty outfield seating sections for nine innings multiple days. Garcia has only pitched back-to-back games one time with most of his layoffs ranging between three days and a week. No correlation to be found.
What it Actually Is for Rony Garcia
Plainly, his pitches are not presently passable for the major leagues. Both his fastball and his slider feature below average movement while his changeup’s horizontal break is the only movement type that is above average among any of his pitches. While featuring a fastball which is in the 55th percentile in terms of velocity, the lack of movement is alarming and undoubtedly a reason for his issues. Add to that a breaking ball that hitters have a .800 slugging percentage against and his lack of effectiveness becomes apparent.
At the same time, sometimes lost in the shuffle is that Rony Garcia is still just 22 years old. While his numbers are alarming, he never pitched above Double-A before making the Tigers Opening Day club–so expecting an effective pitcher may have been a stretch from the start. While some can make such a leap, typically such a jump is designed for more blue-chip types. Our own Casey Mize comes to mind–and he is a year older but has had his fair share of bumps thus far.
At this point, the best move for Garcia and the Tigers would be to stash him the next two weeks and allow him to get side work, then let him work in Toledo to begin 2021 and refine his pitches when the Rule 5 ramifications are no longer applicable. While I do feel Garcia’s ultimate destiny is in the bullpen, the organization may allow him to start in Toledo to regain his developmental footing before moving him back into a relief role in the big leagues.