It’s that time of year again, as we officially kick off our pre-2012 top 50 prospects list! Up first at No. 50 is a potential later-round sleeper from the 2011 Draft with impressive command of the strike zone…
No. 50: David Dwane Rollins
Starting Pitcher / 22 years old / 6′1″ 195 lbs
Born: December 21, 1989 in Carthage, Texas
Bats: Left Throws: Left
High School: Carthage H.S.
College: San Jacinto College
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 24th round (739th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft
Jersey Number: 27 for the Bluefield Blue Jays
Pre-2011 Rank: N/A
- Went to the same high school as Chicago White Sox right-hander Phil Humber
- Went 8-3 with a 4.61 ERA and 69 strikeouts in his freshman year at San Jacinto
- Granted a medical redshirt in 2010 after suffering an arm injury
- Returned to action in 2011 for his sophomore year at San Jacinto, where he went 7-3 with a 2.99 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 81.1 innings
- Made one start for the Victoria Generals of the Texas Collegiate League, giving up six runs (two earned) on five hits in four innings of work with five strikeouts and an uncharacteristic seven walks
- Had signed to transfer to Lubbock Christian University in the fall prior to signing with the Blue Jays
Bluefield Blue Jays Team Stats Ranking:
- 1st in ERA (1.25), walks (2), and WHIP (0.646)
- T-8th in starts (4)
Extra Information and previous experience:
For David Rollins, the fourth time was the charm.
After being drafted three times previously — in the 19th round by the Dodgers in 2008, 23rd round by the Mariners in 2009, and 46th round by the Mariners once again in 2010 — Rollins finally signed his first professional baseball contract when the Blue Jays made him their 24th round pick in this year’s draft.
Before even throwing a pitch as a member of the Jays organization, Rollins was considered a valuable pick for where he was selected. The then-21-year-old signed quickly and reported to Toronto’s newest rookie ball affiliate, the Bluefield Blue Jays.
Bluefield pitching coach Antonio Caceres quickly saw first-hand that Rollins enjoys attacking hitters and getting ahead in the count by being aggressive and throwing first-pitch strikes. In fact, Rollins can’t stand getting behind in the count, and if he does, it only motivates him more during an at-bat.
Repertoire-wise, Rollins boasts a four-pitch mix that starts with a low-90s fastball and a curveball in the high-70s. He has decent bite on his low-80s slider, but his low-80s changeup is considered his out pitch. Although none of Rollins’ pitches are considered plus offerings, he makes up for it with his excellent command of the strike zone.
This was quite evident during his time with Bluefield, where he walked just two batters in a league-leading 21.2 innings at the time in July, just before he got promoted to the Vancouver Canadians on the 13th. By getting ahead in the count and working diligently on changing speeds, Rollins allowed just three earned runs on 12 hits in his four starts for the B-Jays (1.25 ERA and 5.0 H/9) along with 18 strikeouts and a .158 opponent batting average.
While with Vancouver, Rollins earned the win in his first of three starts with the club, where he allowed just one run on six hits with six strikeouts in five innings. He allowed just one run again in his second start, this time in four innings of work, before allowing a pair of earned runs on six hits in five innings in his final start of the season on July 24.
As a member of the Canadians, Rollins walked just one batter and struck out 11 in 14 innings to maintain the rates that he managed with Bluefield (0.8 BB/9 and 7.3 K/9), and he finished with a 2.57 ERA in three starts.
The main difference, however, was the 16 hits that he allowed while with Vancouver and his .276 batting average against. This was largely due to the fact that Rollins would, at times, leave balls up in the zone more than he’d like, and Northwest League hitters were able to capitalize on those mistakes more than the hitters in the Appalachian League.
Rollins will continue to work on changing speeds, keeping the ball low in the strike zone, and improving his off-speed repertoire. The great thing with him, though, is that he has a great work ethic and will do whatever is necessary to improve his game.
“I have been working hard all my life to get where I am at and I don’t want to not work as hard and forget where I have come from,” Rollins told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in July. “This is part of my dream, trying to get to the big show, and hopefully I will be there. I will just keeping working hard every day, just do what I am supposed to do and keep trying to be successful.”
Expected 2012 team: Lansing Lugnuts (Class-A)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: No. 5 starter
Given Rollins’ brief injury history and the fact he only pitched 36 pro innings this past season, the Blue Jays might decide to keep him in extended spring training and have him open the year with short-season Vancouver in June. Don’t tell that to Rollins himself, though, since he apparently has his sights set on opening the year with Hi-A Dunedin.
He has the ability to shoot up this list next year providing he remains a starter, but the Blue Jays could eventually decide to convert him into a dependable lefty specialist out of the bullpen down the road. For now, though, it’s full-steam ahead for Rollins in the starting rotation.
While I don’t think, even with an outstanding spring, that he will crack Dunedin’s roster right away in 2012, I do think it’s safe to say that Rollins will make a full-season club next year, likely Class-A Lansing. Having just turned 22 years old last week, it will be crucial for him to make some noise with a full-season club before the end of the 2012 campaign.