The 2011 draft started at 7 p.m. on a Monday night. The first curve of the draft, though, was thrown by Major League Baseball at about 10 p.m. Saturday, less than 48 hours before the draft was to commence.
That’s when MLB sent out a memo to its 30 member clubs alerting them that lefthanded pitcher Onelkis Garcia Speck was eligible to be drafted. Garcia’s name suddenly surfaced as a potential first-round pick, tied in most prominently to the Dodgers. Minutes before the proceedings began June 6, though, MLB sent another memo to clubs, saying Garcia was no longer on the board.
His residency and case for becoming a free agent will be sorted out, and as Baseball America went to press, Garcia was preparing for a June 11 workout at Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles. According to media reports out of Miami, Garcia left Cuba in January and arrived in the U.S. later that month along with third baseman Adonis Garcia, 25, who had played on some of Cuba’s national teams, including starring in the 2009 World Port tournament in the Netherlands.
The pitching Garcia, whom scouts say is around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, had struggled with his command in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, and had yet to qualify for a national team according to BA’s sources. In three seasons with Guantanamo in Serie Nacional, Garcia was 12-12, 4.73 with 195 strikeouts and 128 walks in 205 innings. His final season was in 2009-10, when he went 5-6, 3.40.
Scouts who have seen Garcia pitch agree the physical lefthander had first-round stuff. “He’s been seen the last two months,” one scouting director said, “under the assumption he was going to be a free agent. He’s shown low-90s velocity with more in there and a breaking ball that could be plus as well.”
Another scout offered, “I had him 92-93, heard he touched 95, and there’s more in there. His breaking ball’s a plus 12-to-6er with more to come too, more snap, more power. I think when he really lets go and is in game shape, he could have two real plus pitches.”
Garcia’s availability for the draft reportedly came down to a power struggle over who represents him. When he came to the U.S., he was represented by Miami Sports Consulting, operated by agents Carlos Perez and Lazaro “Laser” Collazo, the former University of Miami and South Florida pitching coach. However, Garcia now is represented by Los Angeles-based Gus Dominguez, the uncle of Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez. Collazo did not return calls seeking comment on Garcia.
Gus Dominguez says Garcia is 21, born Aug. 2, 1989. Dominguez, who represented such big leaguers as Rey Ordonez, Rene Arocha and Henry Blanco in the past, recently served a prison term after being convicted of smuggling Cuban athletes into the country illegally. He had scouts lining up to come see Garcia’s post-draft workout and had told clubs that Garica’s residency would be established in Nicaragua, making him a free agent. Dominguez had been telling clubs that Garcia was in the U.S. on a travel visa.
“The teams will dictate the market,” said Dominguez, who is not certified as an agent currently and said he works as a consultant for the new LA-based Top 10 firm. “But there’s enough buzz for me to believe it will be a high(-priced) market.”
Dominguez also represents two other players who were drafted: first baseman Yordanys Perez (28th round, Reds), 27, and 25-year-old lefthander Alfredo Unzue (35th round, Athletics). They were teammates in Cuba for the Ciego de Avila Tigers. Unzue pitched in Serie Nacional most recently in 2008, when the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder went 8-3, 2.54. Dominguez said Unzue pitches in the upper 80s with his fastball while using a low arm slot and adding a changeup and curveball.
Perez was playing for the McAllen Thunder in the independent North American League; his stats in Cuba were not available at press time.