You've probably never heard of Speigner. I hadn't until the Rule 5 draft. But he's a reliever prospect who the Washington Post is reporting has an excellent chance of making the Nationals opening day roster. He's been lights out in spring training and with the Nats pitching staff being what it is, a guy who gets batters out is worth his weight in gold.
Speigner was drafted as a senior out of Auburn by the Twins in the 14th round back in 2003. Do the math in your head. That makes him 26 years old right now, so the future is now. Add to that the fact that he's always had pedestrian strikeout rates and he's been mediocre in the International League, and you have a low ceiling prospect.
This is not Billy Wagner in waiting. It's more like a poor man's Hector Carrasco. He owns a low 90's fastball and a curve that has some potential. He's a small guy for a pitcher at under 6 feet tall and fairly thin at 175 pounds. He's generally a groundball pitcher, but in the 2 seasons that I have GB/FB data from, he's had some wild swings that reflect a certain amount of small sample size variability. In last season's stint in Connecticut, he was a reliable groundball machine, allowing half as many fly balls as ground balls. In 2005, he allowed 1.3 grounders for every flyball. And speaking of 2005, he wasn't terrible as a starter, but he wasn't particularly impressive either.
If Speigner can maintain a solid GB/FB ratio, he can be a pretty solid Major League reliever even while posting sub-optimal K rates. Ground ball pitchers who don't walk hitters have low ceilings, but whenever you can find an effective pitcher for $50k, that's a big win when the market is as irrational as it is right now. Will Speigner pull it off and be a good ML reliever? He probably will to some extent. He's clearly in an organization that believes in him and will give him another chance while the Twins never really felt like they needed him, and they probably didn't. So let's sit back and watch him work. Hopefully he'll make it.