One of the top rookie relievers in the majors this year is Shae Simmons of the Atlanta Braves. Through 21.2 big league innings, Simmons has a 2.91 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 23/11 K/BB with 15 hits allowed. He didn't get much attention outside Braves circles pre-season, but his performance merits attention.
Simmons was a 22nd round pick in 2012 from Southeast Missouri State University. He was a starter during his junior year and not massively successful due to command problems, posting a 4.50 ERA with an 89/52 K/BB in 82 innings with 88 hits allowed. His walk rate was too high and as a short right-hander (more on that in a moment), he had to fight some skepticism despite impressive arm strength.
The Braves moved him to the pen and he was immediately successful, posting a 1.49 ERA with a 66/15 K/BB in 42 innings last year for Low-A Rome, with 24 saves, followed by a 2.45 ERA with a 16/7 K/BB in 11 late-season innings for Double-A Mississippi. He ran up a 0.78 ERA with a 30/6 K/BB in 23 innings for Mississippi this spring, with 14 more saves, then was promoted to the majors at the first of June. And as noted above, he's remained very effective in the Show.
Simmons throws hard, 93-97 MPH averaging around 95. His slider is above-average, sometimes excellent. He deployed a changeup in college and the lower minors but hasn't used it much recently. Command gave him trouble in college when he had to pace himself in a starting role but in pro ball he just comes and throws hard.
So Simmons reached the majors within two years of being drafted. Why did he last until the 22nd round? Command was part of it but the main reason was his size: he is short for a right-hander. He is listed anywhere between 5-9, 180 and 6-0, 170 depending on what source you are using, but it is pretty clear he's on the shorter end of the scale. That makes scouts worry about his durability and the effort necessary for him to throw hard, but this seems less of an issue in relief.
This video from Nathaniel Stoltz is a year old, but check out that breaking ball:
Here he picks up his first major league save. The pitch is a fastball but you can see how his delivery works:
Overall I think Simmons is a fine middle relief option and he could get a chance to close games (somewhere) eventually if he maintains his command. He is an example of the gems a smart team can uncover in the later rounds.
Never waste a draft pick.