Detroit Tigers select right-handers Elvis Alvarado, Nick Kuzia in 2021 MiLB Rule 5 draft

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers added a pair of right-handed relievers — Elvis Alvarado and Nick Kuzia — to the organization in Wednesday’s minor-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 draft.

International signees or high school draft picks from 2017 and college draftees from 2018 needed to be protected from this year’s Rule 5 draft. Among these groups, players not on the 38-man Triple-A roster were eligible to be selected.

There were five rounds in the MiLB Rule 5 draft, but the Tigers made just two picks. For those two selections, the Tigers made payments of $24,500 each to Alvarado’s and Kuzia’s original teams. The Tigers can send Alvarado and Kuzia to any level in the farm system.

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This year’s MLB Rule 5 draft was postponed indefinitely because MLB owners locked out the players upon the Dec. 1 expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. The Tigers got surprise starting outfielder Akil Baddoo in December 2020 via the MLB Rule 5 draft.

Once a new CBA is agreed upon, the MLB Rule 5 draft could be rescheduled. (The Tigers protected infielder Kody Clemens and right-hander Angel De Jesus in November by adding them to the 40-man roster.)

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The Tigers picked No. 7 overall in the MiLB Rule 5 draft and selected Alvarado from the Seattle Mariners. The 22-year-old had a 6.60 ERA with 32 walks and 33 strikeouts in 45 innings over 31 games (one start) for Low-A Modesto in 2021.

In his three-year minor-league career, Alvarado has a 5.87 ERA with 63 walks and 80 strikeouts over 87⅓ innings in 54 games (four starts). He averages 6.5 walks and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He is from the Dominican Republic and signed with the Washington Nationals in July 2015.

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Alvarado made his minors debut in 2017 in the Dominican Summer League. That year, he played as an outfielder and hit .139 (22-for-158) with two home runs, nine RBIs, 10 walks and 70 strikeouts in 45 games.

The following season, Alvarado transitioned to the pitcher’s mound.

In July 2019, the Nationals included Alvarado in a five-pitcher trade with the Mariners. The deal sent Alvarado, Aaron Fletcher and Taylor Guilbeau to the Mariners in exchange for Hunter Strickland (two-time World Series champion) and Roenis Elias.

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In the second round of the MiLB Rule 5 draft, the Tigers added Kuzia from the San Diego Padres. The 25-year-old posted a 3.42 ERA with 27 walks and 71 strikeouts over 52.2 innings for Double-A San Antonio (37 games) and Triple-A El Paso (4 games).

Kuzia began his minor-league career in June 2017, when the Padres signed him as an undrafted free agent who played collegiately for Massachusetts-Lowell.

Spending most of 2021 in Double-A, Kuzia registered a 3.47 ERA with 23 walks and 60 strikeouts in 46⅔ innings. He logged a 3.00 ERA with four walks and 11 strikeouts in six Triple-A innings.

Kuzia, in his four-year minor-league career, has a 4.14 ERA with 80 walks and 194 strikeouts in 171⅔ innings across 118 games (one start). He averages 4.2 walks and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, boosted by an impressive 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2021.

Of the 56 players drafted in the last year’s MiLB Rule 5 draft, five reached the major leagues and 16 appeared in Triple-A, according to Baseball America. Two of those players — including right-hander Yunior Perez, added by the Tigers — never pitched for their new teams.

In the 2021 draft, 51 players were selected.

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Tigers lose pitcher

After the Tigers nabbed Alvarado, the Houston Astros used their first-round pick (No. 23 overall) to steal right-handed reliever Ruben Garcia from the Tigers.

The 25-year-old pitched 38 games between High-A West Michigan (12 games) and Double-A Erie (26 games) in the 2021 season. He produced a combined 4.15 ERA with 34 walks and 72 strikeouts over 56.1 innings.

For the SeaWolves, Garcia had a 4.83 ERA with 29 walks and 51 strikeouts in 41 innings.

The Tigers acquired Garcia from the Baltimore Orioles in the 2019 MiLB Rule 5 draft. The Orioles selected Garcia in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB draft. He played for Eastern Florida State College.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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