The Dodgers chose to go in an atypical direction in the 2012 draft last year. Usually the Dodgers favor pitching with their selections, but for 2012 they instead chose two infielders for their first and second picks. Their fourth selection was that of Cuban pitcher Onelki Garcia. The 23-year old is a left-handed power pitcher who stands at 6’3″ and 220 pounds. Onelki can throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a sinker, a curve, and a he supposedly also has a nasty changeup which he is developing. His fastball has been said to touch 95-mph.
The young southpaw had a very rough road in his journey from Cuba to the United States. Onelki’s harrowing experience began when he left his family in Cuba to board a boat along with twenty other passengers on August 18, 2010. Garcia was just turned 21-years old. I can’t imagine what it would be like to leave everything and everyone I have known in order to take the leap of faith to try to follow a dream and to make it into the Major Leagues.
From Cancun, Mexico, Onelki and some other Cuban prospects were taken to Nicaragua. When Onelki and Adonis Garcia tried to go back to Mexico from Guatemala, they were detained in Tapachula, Mexico for a month before being released. Then there was a second ten day long imprisonment in Mexico subsequently. Onelki and Odonis finally got to the U.S. border in Texas, but they were held there for 18 hours. From Texas, the two ballplayers flew to Miami, Florida. All in all the dangerous ordeal took six months.
Onelki was originally slated to be drafted in 2011, but there was a troubling incident where he allegedly had fake residency paperwork submitted in order to dodge the draft in 2011 and become a free agent. Free agency would lead to a more lucrative signing since more than one team could negotiate with him. His elegibility for the draft was revoked for 2011.
After being selected by the Dodgers in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he received a $382,000 signing bonus. He started just one game for the Advanced-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2012. He pitched two innings while striking out four batters out of the six he faced. Garcia also made a relief appearance in a playoff game for the Chattanooga Lookouts after the Quakes had ended their season. He pitched three innings for Chattanooga where he struck out seven of nine batters while walking one. Matt Herges, former Dodger pitcher and pitching coach for the Quakes and the Mesa Solar Sox, commented on what he thought about Garcia before he was to report to him in the Arizona Fall League:
This kid, coming from Cuba, is on a mission. He throws 94 [mph] from the left side with a slider or whatever he calls it that’s a true swing-and-miss pitch. He’s got other pitches, but the game I saw him he only needed two. He looks like he knows how to pitch. This is not a kid who doesn’t know where the ball’s going. He throws with command.”
Garcia had reportedly strained his oblique and has a bicep issue this winter which caused him to be unable to play in much of the Arizona Fall League after all. He ended up starting two games for the Mesa Solar Sox, and he struck out two batters while walking two over four innings pitched. He allowed four hits and one earned run giving him a record of 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA.
From Arizona, Garcia went to play for the Indios de Mayaguez of the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. He has started three games, and he has a record of 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings pitched. He’s struck out nine while walking three, and he has allowed 15 hits.
Onelki Garcia’s story is full of twists and turns, but the Dodgers have obviously seen something special in his pitching. Garcia, now a top pitching prospect in the Dodger farm system, will seek to impress in his first full season of professional baseball in 2013. The Dodgers could very well have three powerful lefties in their rotation of the future with Clayton Kershaw, Ryu Hyun-Jin, and Onelki Garcia.