Detroit Tigers select OF Victor Reyes with first pick in Rule 5 Draft
ORLANDO, Fla. — Victor Reyes entered the mix to be the Detroit Tigers' starting center fielder after being selected with the first pick of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.
Reyes, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound switch-hitter, has not played above Double-A. The Venezuelan was ranked as the 18th-best prospect in the Diamondbacks' organization by MLB Pipeline. He spent the entire 2017 season at Double-A Jackson (Tenn.), where and hit .292 with 29 doubles, 59 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.
He also hit .316 and scored eight runs in the Arizona Fall League and was selected to the AFL's Rising Stars Team.
The Tigers other options in center field are JaCoby Jones and Leonys Martin. It's possible Martin could win the job in spring training, with Reyes as the backup capable of playing all three outfield spots. That would allow the Tigers to send Jones to Triple-A to continue his development at the plate.
"Good-looking center fielder, can play all three," Dave Littlefield, vice president of player development, said after the Rule 5 Draft held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. "Switch-hitter that gets on base. Still a projection with the bat but very athletic. With our situation as it is, seemed to be a be good fit."
Right-handed relief pitcher Nick Burdi seemed like a good fit. He went third to the Phillies. Burdi is expected to miss half the season after having Tommy John surgery in May. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, who managed the Twins in 2002-14, was familiar with Burdi after drafting him out of Louisville in the second round of the 2014 draft.
"We drafted Reyes, that's who we liked," Littlefield said. "It's a combination (of need and potential). Obviously, there's some need. But you could point out within the team going into spring training there's some need in some other places too. We see this guy as the best fit with some potential to be an average to above-average player if some of the strength comes along and he continues to perform."
The Tigers could have picked again in the second round but didn't. They have one spot left open on the 40-man roster. "We liked a couple guys and then as other teams picked ... we just decided we felt better just staying with the one pick and leaving a roster spot available. We've got a few things we'd like to accomplish during the winter. It gives us a little flexibility to do that."
It's also possible the Tigers will swing a trade in spring training for one of the Rule 5 players selected that won't end up on a 40-man roster. "Those are all possibilities," Littlefield said. "It's a little far to kind of get too specific."
The Tigers likely will use the roster spot to add another pitcher.
Asked if Reyes could battle for the starting job in left with Mikie Mahtook, Littlefield said: "I think realistically, obviously what Mahtook has done is taken a step forward. We'll see how it plays out. (Reyes) does have the versatility athletically to play all three. So that's always a help."
The Tigers didn't lose any players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft. Former Tiger outfielder Anthony Gose was selected as a left-handed pitcher by the Astros from the Rangers in the first round.
The Tigers lose three players in the Triple-A phase of the draft. Left-handed pitcher Locke St. John was picked by the Rangers. St. John was a 32nd round pick in 2014 by the Tigers and had a 2.94 ERA in 27 appearances this season for Low-A West Michigan.
The Rays selected right-handed pitcher Francisco German, a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, one pick after St. John was taken. German split time between rookie ball and short-season. He had a 6.00 ERA in 16 games.
In the third round, the Marlins selected first baseman Will Allen, a 13th round pick in 2014 who spent all but two games this season at High-A Lakeland.