Tigers Take Long View With Rule 5 Pick Victor Reyes

Picking first overall in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, the Tigers had a number of options.

Detroit passed on righthanders Nick Burdi and Julian Fernandez, a pair of 100 mph relievers, to select 23-year-old outfielder Victor Reyes from the Diamondbacks. He will enter spring training in the mix for center field, though the Tigers are taking the long view of Reyes’ development.

“He’s a good-looking center fielder,” vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. “He can play all three (defensive positions). He’s a switch-hitter who gets on base. He’s still a projection with the bat, but very athletic. With our situation as it is, he seemed to be a good fit.”

The Tigers are hoping they can get Reyes through 2018 on the 25-man roster before affording him more development time in the minors in 2019.

Reyes has hit .298 in six minor league seasons. He spent 2017 at Double-A Jackson and ranked sixth in the Southern League batting race by hitting .292/.332/.399 with four home runs in 126 games. He has shown minimal power, but the Tigers think he will pack some mass onto his 6-foot-3 frame, resulting in more home runs.

“It’s a combination (of need and potential),” Littlefield said. “Obviously, there’s some need, but you could point out . . . some need in 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 Braves signed Reyes out of Venezuela in 2011, then traded him to the D-backs for a supplemental second-round pick in 2015.

The Tigers were most intrigued by Reyes’ mature hitting approach and plate coverage. If more power emerges—a big “if” given his 12 home runs in more than 2,000 at-bats—the Tigers could have a regular corner outfielder.

Detroit found success in the 2016 Rule 5 draft by selecting lefthander Daniel Stumpf but did not want to go a similar route, given the team’s muddled mix of average relievers. Handing another spot away would have presented roster challenges.

“We liked a couple guys,” Littlefiled said, “(but) we just decided we felt better staying with one pick and leaving a roster spot available.”

Anthony Fenech covers the Tigers for the Detroit Free Press

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