The Baltimore Orioles promoted 29-year-old minor league veteran Oliver Drake to the major leagues yesterday and he contributed two scoreless relief innings against the San Diego Padres. Drake spent part of 2015 in the majors, posting a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings with a 17/9 K/BB, but he is still an official rookie for 2016 by MLB standards. He's actually fairly interesting as 29-year-old rookie relievers go, so let's take a look.
Drake has been an Orioles farm hand since back in 2008, when he was drafted in the 43rd round from the United States Naval Academy. He could have gone 30 rounds higher but the military commitment added enough uncertainty to hamper his stock. The Orioles signed him and got the military stuff worked out, beginning a slow but steady trek through the farm system. Shoulder surgery cost him almost all of the 2012 season and he was moved to the bullpen on his return.
Results since then have been quite good as he's been a very effective reliever in the high minors, posting an outstanding 1.23 ERA in 73 Triple-A innings with a 110/30 K/BB and a mere 40 hits allowed.
Drake is a 6-4, 213 pound right-hander both January 13, 1987. In my view he's been ready for a major league job for at least two years. His numbers since returning from the shoulder injury are outstanding. His approach is unique: he mixes an 88-92 MPH fastball with a splitter in the 80s as his key out pitch. He uses the splitter at least half the time and hitters can't do much with it even when they expect it. He's been unhittable at times in Triple-A and his major league audition last year went well.
Although his command is occasionally erratic, Drake has little left to prove in the minors. He looks like a very competent reliever going forward if given an opportunity.