Detroit Tigers Trapped in Spring Training Limbo – Relief Pitchers
Angel De Jesus
Angel De Jesus has never been particularly highly regarded on a national level. That’s understandable, as he signed out of the Dominican Republic when he was 19 (considered “old” by international free agent standards) and he made a permanent move to the bullpen in 2019. But he posted outstanding numbers as a reliever, and the Tigers have always been fond of De Jesus, so they added him to their 40-man roster last November.
Angel De Jesus comes at hitters with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider that both generate a good number of swings and misses, but also a fair number of bewildered takes. De Jesus gets above-average movement on his fastball, and because his arm wanders from a low-3/4 slot to nearly side-armed at times, that movement is highly unpredictable. Unfortunately, his inconsistent mechanics also lead to a lot of walks (5.6 BB/9 in Toledo). There’s a good enough arm here for De Jesus to be a solid middle reliever, but time with the player dev staff might help him with his inconsistency.
Jason Foley has one of the biggest arms in the Detroit Tigers system, and he saw some success in limited time in the big leagues last year. But even though Foley’s fastball has touched triple digits, it doesn’t necessarily have the movement or spin rates to miss a ton of bats. Instead, most of his pitches show seam-shifted wake.
That’s a fancy way to say Foley’s pitches don’t necessarily behave the way hitters think they will. And, crucially, pitchers like Foley can now use high-speed cameras to measure the seam-shifted wake on their pitches and then make necessary adjustments. But again, this is something best done in conjunction with the player development staff, which Foley won’t have access to until the lockout ends.
Rony Garcia remains a bit of an enigma. The Tigers made him the first overall pick in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, but he spent most of the shortened 2020 season tucked away in Detroit’s bullpen. He occasionally popped out of the shadows to get walloped by big-league hitters, posting an 8.14 ERA with seven home runs allowed in just 21 innings. He was assigned to Triple-A Toledo and made four solid starts to begin 2021 before Detroit called him up to work out of the bullpen. He made two appearances before a freak knee injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.
Garcia did return to the mound in December for one two-inning stint for Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican Winter League, but that just means he has thrown 46 innings over the last two seasons instead of 42. The Tigers liked his arm enough to take a shot on him two years ago, and he’s still just 24, but Garcia desperately needs to get on the mound and compete to continue refining his stuff and his command.