Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top 15 Pitchers: #8 Heath Rollins

Heath RollinsHeath Rollins
6'1" 190 lbs. DOB: 5/25/85
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Vero Beach/Montgomery
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 11th Round, 319th Overall

Rollins was a two-way player at Winthrop, and probably could've been drafted at around the same spot as an athletic outfielder. The Rays decided to keep him on the mound, and it's hard to argue with the results since then.

Once he signed, he reported to Hudson Valley where pitched 46 non-descript innings(4.08 ERA). The Rays sent him to full-season Columbus for 2007. All he did there was win 17 games with a 2.54 ERA, anchoring the pitching staff on that championship team. 2008 wasn't quite as good, but between Vero Beach and Montgomery, he pitched 161 innings, struck out 138, and walked only 33. His ERA was 3.24 between the two stops.

Rollins relies a lot more on control and pitchability than pure stuff. He throws an average 90-92 MPH fastball along with a slider, curveball, and changeup. None of his pitches really profile as plus down the line, so it's important for him to keep the walks low. His athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery well, so the walks shouldn't be a big concern in the future. His GO/AO fell from 1.56 in 2007 to about 1.03 in 2009. I don't think it will fall any further, and he should be right around the average groundball rate.

One comparison that's easy to make is Andy Sonnanstine. Both were college guys taken after the 10th round, both rely on control. Sonnanstine showed an even better BB/9 in his early minor-league career, though. In his age-23 season in Montgomery, Sonnanstine threw 185 innings of 2.74 ERA ball with a BB/9 of 1.6.

Rollins will be back in Montgomery in 2009 in what would be considered his age-24 year. His age relative to league is worth noting - he's always been old for his league - but he hasn't had to repeat a level and has moved up fine. He'll probably never make it as a starter in the Rays organization, but there's definitely value in a reliever who can come in and throw strikes. If the Rays try to swing any sort of trade, they could include him if the other team sees him reaching his ceiling as a #4 pitcher in the future.

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