Though he wasn’t exactly one of the more exciting pieces selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, former Chicago Cubs righty David Garner could be a name of interest going forward.
The Rule 5 draft is, even at its most exciting points, still a little bit too obscure for some baseball fans and writers. The minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft perpetuates that notion even further, with many not even making note of those selected in that section.
However, the Blue Jays, constantly tinkering with their roster, did make a selection in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, selecting 26-year-old right-hander David Garner from the Chicago Cubs, and immediately assigning him to Triple-A Buffalo. Initial confusion aside, could this mystery man be of some use to the team going forward?
Simply put, probably not. Though he once put together a decent season in High-A ball in 2015, he has since seen his peripherals skyrocket as a result of increased fly-ball percentages and a stunningly bleak inability to keep the ball in the strike zone.
To make matters worse, Garner, a native of Niles, Michigan, was suspended for the entirety of the 2018 season due to the use of a “drug of abuse”. The incidents that prompted his suspension were his second and third violations of minor league baseball’s substance abuse policy. Thus, any stats you’ll likely see from him were from the 2017 season, which he spent split between Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee.
What is most alarming about his recent performance is his horrendous FIP, which, in 2017, was a staggeringly high 6.57 in the Triple-A portion of his season. While in Double-A, his FIP was a serviceable 3.82, while his xFIP was 5.18 in Triple-A and 3.70 in Double-A.
His groundball percentage hovered around the 40% mark (which Fangraphs considers slightly below average), and he struck out 51 and walked 25 in 44.1 innings at both levels, boasting a WHIP of 1.466.
Not spectacular, by any means, but workable. While the FIP and xFIP numbers at the Triple-A level don’t exactly set a great precedent for him in the Blue Jays system, it is worth noting that while in Triple-A, he played in the Pacific Coast League, a notoriously hitter-friendly league. It is also worth noting that a recent statistical analysis by MiLB found Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field (now known as Sahlen Field) to be more pitcher-friendly than hitter-friendly, whereas Garner’s old PCL stomping grounds, including the division rival homes of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and the Oklahoma City Dodgers, were marginally more hitter-friendly.
Of course, this is likely a moot point if Garner falls farther down the minor league ranks and ends up playing with New Hampshire in the Eastern League or Dunedin in the Florida State League. After all, all Garner really has to compare himself to is Sam Moll, who the Jays lost in the same minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft to the San Francisco Giants.
Garner should be one of the many names to watch come the start of the season. While he probably won’t have much effect on the organization, he’s just another lottery ticket arm that is added to the already existing pile of lottery tickets stashed in the Blue Jays farm system.