Last night saw the Dominican Winter League – or LIDOM (Liga de Beisbol Professional de la Republica Dominicana) – held their annual draft. To be eligible for the draft a player must have played at least Low-A baseball. They also have to have been on the roster of a team at that level through the month of August.
This year the Cincinnati Reds only had one player drafted. Mariel Bautista went in the 3rd round (out of 16) to Licey. The outfielder was in the building for the draft and was on stage after being announced as the selection. He got a nice jersey and hat to put on before the draft continued. You can see the video below. It should start at 46:33, but if it doesn’t, that’s where you need to skip to.
Mariel Bautista spent the entire year with the Dayton Dragons this season with the exception of a rehab stint that lasted a week in Arizona. The outfielder hit .233/.303/.332 on the year for Dayton in 103 games. He hit 13 doubles, 2 triples, and 8 home runs while also stealing 11 bases this year.
Usually the top players that are selected are prospects who spent their first season in full-season baseball the previous year. And the top selection in the draft was certainly that guy, as the Gigantes selected super prospect Wander Franco with the first pick. But it was the second pick that bucked the normal trends. The Aguilas selected Robel Garcia, a 26-year-old from the Chicago Cubs organization. All he did this season was hit .284/.369/.586 in Double-A and Triple-A this season (mostly in Triple-A) before getting a call up to the Major Leagues this year.
Prior to last night’s draft I had never heard of Robel Garcia. Odds are that you probably haven’t, either. He was never a prospect. And if you look up his stats on Baseball-Reference, or whatever site you prefer to use to look up stats, you’ll notice that he didn’t play from 2014-2018. Originally signed with the Indians, he struggled to hit in three of his four years with the club before being released after the 2013 campaign as a 20-year-old who hit .207/.304/.356 in the short-season New York-Penn League with a brief 16-game stint in Low-A.
So how did a guy go from not playing from 2014-2018 to reaching the Major Leagues in 2019? This is where things get fun. After his release he couldn’t get signed by a team in affiliated baseball, but he wasn’t ready to give up. He wound up playing professionally in Italy of all places. That led to his being on Team Italy. In a somewhat common practice, national teams from around the world travel to Florida and Arizona in the fall and spring for instructional league and spring training to play in exhibitions against minor leaguers. And that is where Cubs scout Gabe Zappin saw Robel Garcia in action against the Oakland Athletics minor leaguers. Garcia was impressive and that led to his signing last October with the Cubs. It’s an awesome story on not giving up on things and doing all that you can to chase it.