The end of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings is unofficially marked by the Rule 5 Draft. Each team has an opportunity to pick a player from one of the other 29 teams that isn’t under 40-man roster protection. MLB Trade Rumors has a great breakdown of how the draft process works and what makes a player eligible.
The Seattle Mariners had the No. 20 pick overall in the draft and selected David Rollins from the Houston Astros.
Rollins, who turns 25 on December 21, is a left-handed pitcher who has thrown all of six innings at Triple-A. In 78 innings, 12 starts, with the Astros Double-A affiliate in 2014 he posted a 3.81 ERA and 3.24 FIP. Rollins has struck out nearly one batter per inning in his minor league career and has kept the walks around three per nine.
The left-hander has above-average velocity sitting in the 92-95 mph range alongside a slider and changeup. The changeup is still a real work in progress, so as a two-pitch guy, Rollins doesn’t profile as a starter. The past starting experience does suggest that he’s someone who could be relied on for multiple innings as opposed to a specialist role. At the moment Seattle stands to lose Joe Beimel to free agency who, alongside Charlie Furbush, filled the left-handed portion of the bullpen. Presumably the M’s were looking to add some depth on the left side with this move. Lucas Luetge is also an internal option for a bullpen role.
Rollins was actually drafted twice by the Mariners as a 23rd round pick in 2009 and as a 46th round pick in 2010 but did not sign either time. The next year he would be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 24th round and would sign. He was acquired by Houston in the nine-player trade that brought current Mariner J.A. Happ north of the border.
There’s always a chance that Rollins cracks the big league roster out of spring but he would have to spend the entire year on the M’s 25-man roster or be returned to the Astros. He can’t simply be stashed on the disabled list either. If the 24-year old shows that his fastball and slider can play at the big league level and Luetge looks unpolished, the club could always hang on to Rollins for the start of the season and see where things go.
It isn’t unusual for a team to select a player in the Rule 5 draft and later work out an agreement to keep the player. Usually this is in the form of cash considerations beyond the $25,000 the returning club receives or a lower-level minor leaguer.
For the most part players selected on Thursday do not stick with the selecting team. Usually these are pitchers with limited experience above the Double-A level though there’s the odd position player that can have an impact. It is simply easier to stash a player in the bullpen than on the bench.
Rollins is unlikely to amount to much for the Mariners, although every once in a while a Johan Santana or R.A. Dickey is found via the Rule 5 Draft.