The Tigers’ 2018 remodeling job continued Thursday when they grabbed Diamondbacks switch-hitter Victor Reyes, 23, with the first pick of the 2018 Rule 5 draft.
Reyes batted .292, with a .332 on-base percentage, in 126 games at Double-A Jacksonville in 2017. In six minor-league seasons with Arizona and with the Braves, he has a .298 batting average and a .347 on-base mark. He has little power (12 home runs, total) for a man 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, but has speed and can play all outfield positions.
The Tigers must keep Reyes on their 25-man active roster in 2018 or return him to the Diamondbacks for one-half of the $100,000 Rule 5 fee.
“If you look at the numbers, he’s hit at every level,” said David Chadd, the Tigers assistant general manager. “Power hasn’t come yet, but we think it will because of the frame. We think at some point he’ll be an everyday position player.
“We beat this thing up all week, and everything kept coming back to Reyes.”
The Tigers had extra insight on Reyes because of longtime scout Mike Russell, now a special assistant to general manager Al Avila, who was with the Diamondbacks for two years before rejoining the Tigers in 2016.
The Tigers made their pick as baseball’s Winter Meetings closed at Orlando, Fla. It had been anticipated they would take a pitcher, perhaps Twins reliever Nick Burdi, who throws a 100-mph fastball and who last season had Tommy John surgery. But the Tigers decided on Reyes.
Burdi went to the Phillies with the third pick in Thursday’s draft.
The Tigers expect that Reyes will play sparingly next season as they ride out their 2018 mandate to hold him on the 25-man active roster. If he sticks with the team for all of 2018, the Tigers can then send him to the minors or keep him on the big-league club in 2019 and beyond.
Rule 5 players become eligible if they have spent at least four seasons in the minors — longer if signed as a teen — and are not part of their club’s 40-man roster.
Reyes is from Barcelona, Venezuela, and was originally signed by the Braves. His batting averages during his five previous minor-league seasons: .296, .342, .259, .311, and .303.
Reyes on-base percentage has been particularly high, including years of .418 and .387. In only two seasons has he struck out more than 58 times: 78 in 2016 (124 games) and 80 (126 games).
“Anytime you go down this road with a Rule 5 guy,” Chadd said, “you look for someone who can stick with the club and have an impact in following years.”
The Tigers took no other players, including the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 draft. They did lose three players in the Triple A segment: pitchers Locke St. John (Rangers) and Francisco German (Rays), as well as first baseman Will Allen (Rays).
The Tigers grabbed Reyes about 12 hours after they had made their lone trade at the Winter Meetings, shipping second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Angels for a pair of prospects: pitcher Wilkel Hernandez, and outfielder Troy Montgomery.