Detroit Tigers should consider one of these 10 players in Rule 5 draft

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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With the virtual winter meetings underway, the Detroit Tigers will make a choice Thursday with the third pick in the 2020 Rule 5 draft.

A player selected must stay on his new team’s active roster for the entire 2021 season or be offered back to his former organization for $50,000. However, the player can be sent to the minors if he clears waivers and his original team doesn’t want him back.

To choose a player, the new team must make a $100,000 payment to the player’s former ballclub.

For subscribers: How Rule 5 draft pick Victor Reyes went from castoff to ‘valuable’ in Tigers’ rebuild

On Nov. 20, the Tigers protected four eligible prospects — right-handers Matt Manning, Alex Faedo and Alex Lange and left-hander Joey Wentz — by placing them on the 40-man roster. They opened a spot on the roster Monday by placing righty Anthony Castro on waivers.

Recent picks by the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft are left-hander Daniel Stumpf (No. 11 pick, 2016), outfielder Victor Reyes (No. 1 pick, 2017), right-hander Reed Garrett (No. 5 pick, 2018) and righty Rony Garcia (No. 1 pick, 2019). 

Reyes projects as a starting outfielder for the Tigers in the 2021 season. Meanwhile, Garcia made it through last season on the active roster and will likely be assigned to Double-A Erie or Triple-A Toledo.

[ What Tigers’ Rule 5 draft pick Rony Garcia showed in his ‘fantastic’ debut ]

Here are 10 players, in no order, the Tigers should consider selecting with the third pick in the 2020 Rule 5 draft. (Note: Team prospect rankings come from MLB Pipeline.)

C Payton Henry

Team: Milwaukee Brewers, No. 15 prospect.

Age: 23.

2019 stats: 121 G, 430 AB, 104 H, .242 avg., 22 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 75 RBI, 26 BB, 142 K, .315 obp., .395 slg. for High-A Carolina.

The buzz: The Brewers chose to protect catcher Mario Feliciano (No. 4 prospect) instead of Henry, but they both feature right-handed power and a high strikeout rate. To compare, Feliciano played 116 games in High-A with Henry in the 2019 season, hitting .273 with 19 homers, 81 RBIs, 29 walks and 139 strikeouts.

The Tigers might have a tough time keeping Henry on the active roster, as teams traditionally only carry two catchers. But the 6-foot-2, 215-pound slugger could be worth taking a chance on, considering the organization’s absence of a reliable catcher of the future.

OF Buddy Reed

Team: Oakland Athletics, No. 24 prospect.

Age: 25.

2019 stats: 121 G, 381 AB, 87 H, .228 avg., 15 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 42 BB, 126 K, .310 obp., .388 slg. for Double-A Amarillo.

The buzz: The 6-foot-4, 218-pound switch-hitter had a breakthrough 2018 season in 79 games in High-A for the San Diego Padres, with a .324 batting average, 12 homers and 47 RBIs. He didn’t do well in Double-A in 2018 and 2019, so the Padres left him unprotected in last year’s Rule 5 draft. Reed went unselected and was sent to the Athletics as the player to be named later in the Jurickson Profar trade.

The Tigers would benefit from Reed’s power and speed on the bases. His ability to play all three outfield positions makes him a candidate to end up as the second-coming of Reyes (the Tigers’ Rule 5 pick in 2017), serving as a starter, defensive replacement and pinch-runner in 2021.

C Brett Cumberland

Team: Baltimore Orioles, unranked.

Age: 25.

2019 stats: 60 G, 183 AB, 47 H, .257 avg., 14 2B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 31 BB, 47 K, .404 obp., .415 slg. for Low-A Aberdeen (four games), Single-A Frederick (15 games) and Double-A Bowie (41 games).

The buzz: With Jake Rogers, Grayson Greiner and Eric Haase as the only catchers currently slated to compete for two spots on the roster, adding other options would be helpful. The Tigers need a catcher with an impact bat and won’t bring up Dillon Dingler (second-round pick in 2020 draft) until at least the 2022 season. Cumberland, a switch-hitter, prides himself on his power at the plate.

RHP Enyel De Los Santos

Team: Philadelphia Phillies, No. 9 prospect.

Age: 24.

MLB career: 12 G, 3 GS, 5.70 ERA, 30 IP, 32 H, 6 HR, 12 BB, 24 K, 1.500 WHIP in the 2018 season (seven games) and 2019 season (five games).

The buzz: If the Tigers are interested in a pitcher with MLB innings, De Los Santos might be the best choice. He climbed through the minors with a 3.78 ERA in Double-A (2017) and, in Triple-A, a 2.63 ERA and 4.40 ERA in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Of his 119 career games, he started 103 of them. Also, the 6-foot-3 righty owns a 2.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings across all levels.

De Los Santos has experience as a starter and reliever, both in the majors and minors, so the Tigers could get long-term benefits from him.

RHP Jose Alberto Rivera

Team: Houston Astros, No. 14 prospect.

Age: 23.

2019 stats: 18 G, 11 GS, 3.81 ERA, 75⅔ IP, 61 H, 2 HR, 36 BB, 95 K, 1.282 WHIP for Single-A Quad Cities.

The buzz: Rivera’s fastball reaches 100 mph, and with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings last year, there’s no reason for the Tigers not to consider him. He made starts in 21 of his 44 career games in the minors, meaning he fits new manager AJ Hinch’s bullpen philosophy of multiple innings. 

2B Omar Estevez

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers, No. 21 prospect.

Age: 22.

2019 stats: 90 G, 319 AB, 93 H, .292 avg., 26 RBI, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 33 BB, 78 K, .353 obp., .429 slg. in 90 games for Rookie Arizona League (seven games) and Double-A Tulsa (83 games).

The buzz: The Dodgers gave Estevez a $6 million signing bonus when they inked him from Cuba in November 2015. Although he didn’t immediately meet the franchise’s lofty expectations, he has improved at each level of pro ball. The Tigers need more depth at second base, and there’s plenty of upside remaining in Estevez. 

RHP Sterling Sharp

Team: Washington Nationals, No. 24 prospect.

Age: 25.

MLB career: 4 G, 10.13 ERA, 5⅓ IP, 7 H, 1 HR, 5 BB, 3 K, 2.250 WHIP in 2020 season for Miami Marlins. 

The buzz: Sharp was picked No. 3 overall in last year’s Rule 5 draft by the Marlins but was returned to the Nationals in August after poor performances. He did well in the Arizona Fall League in 2019, posting a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings across six starts.

A Michigan native, Sharp played in high school at North Farmington and in college at Eastern Michigan (2014 season) before transferring to Division II Drury University. 

2B Kevin Kramer

Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, No. 21 prospect.

Age: 27.

MLB career: 43 G, 79 AB, 12 H, .152 avg., 1 2B, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 8 BB, 37 K, .222 obp., .165 slg. in 2018 season (21 games) and 2019 season (22 games).

The buzz: This is an unlikely choice for the Tigers because of Kramer’s age, but he is a left-handed bat with MLB experience and can play many positions — two bonuses when trying to hit the lottery in the Rule 5 draft. Kramer wasn’t successful in his big-league stints with the Pirates and is past his prime for development, but the 2015 second-round pick from UCLA is someone to keep an eye on.

RHP Brett de Geus

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers, No. 27 prospect.

Age: 23.

2019 stats: 39 G, 8 SV, 1.75 ERA, 61⅔ IP, 45 H, 0 HR, 13 BB, 72 K, 0.941 WHIP for Single-A Great Lakes (19 games) and High-A Rancho Cucamonga (20 games).

The buzz: After the Dodgers picked de Geus in the 2017 draft, he missed the remainder of the year with a heart condition. He struggled in the 2018 season but got back on track in 2019, capped off by a 1.16 ERA in 31 innings for the team’s High-A affiliate. Whether it’s the Tigers or a different team, expect de Geus to be selected.

RHP Dakota Mekkes

Team: Chicago Cubs, unranked.

Age: 26.

2019 stats: 43 G, 5 SV, 5.29 ERA, 49⅓ IP, 44 H, 6 HR, 34 BB, 61 K, 1.581 WHIP for Triple-A Iowa.

The buzz: Mekkes made a name for himself out of the bullpen as a redshirt sophomore for Michigan State in the 2016 season, logging a 1.74 ERA, 41 walks and 96 strikeouts in 57 innings. He cruised through the minors with a sub-2.15 ERA at each stop until the 2019 campaign.

But Mekkes held a 1.44 ERA in 31⅓ innings for Triple-A Iowa in 2018 before collapsing at the same level one year later. If the Tigers believe the former Spartan can return to his status from his first Triple-A stint, then he should be in the mix.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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