Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Top Prospect List: #13 Matt Maloney, LHP


The Reds acquired Matt Maloney from the Phillies last year for Kyle Lohse. Since Maloney arrived in the Cincinnati organization, he's opened up a lot of eyes and given pause to those fans who felt that Wayne Krivsky shouldn't have traded Zach Ward for Kyle Lohse. At this point, Maloney seems to be a better prospect than Ward.

It's interesting to see the Reds acquiring a lot of guys with high baseball IQs over the last couple of years, including Matt Maloney, Devin Mesoraco, Danny Dorn, and Todd Frazier. It's nice to have guys in the in organization who play smart baseball and always seem to make the right percentage play.

Maloney went to the University of Mississippi. He's 6'4, 220 lbs, bats left, and throws left. He'll be 24 years old heading into the 2008 season.

REPERTOIRE

Maloney features four solid pitches, including a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. None of the four pitches is a plus pitches, but his tremendous command and feel make the pitches play up.

His fastball is his best pitch and it sits in the 86-89 range with tremendous late sink. His changeup is his second best offering and he is not afraid to throw it at any time. His curveball has an 11-5 break on it and is a big looping type breaking ball.

His lack of velocity limits his upside, but Maloney understands how to get the most out of what he has, which is always a good thing in a pitcher.

Most scouting reports have him pegged as a backend of the rotation starter due to his lack of a plus pitch. However, given his stellar performance at each and every level over the past couple of years, it may be time to increase his ceiling to that of a #3 starter.

PROFESSIONAL CAREER

Maloney has had nothing but success at every level. From 2005 through 2007, Maloney put up quality numbers at every stop. He posted a 3.89 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP and a 36/15 K/BB ratio in 37 innings at low-A ball. At high-A, Maloney posted a 2.02 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and a 180/73 K/BB ratio in 169 innings. At Double-A, Maloney continued to roll posting a 3.69 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP with a 154/48 K/BB ratio in 153.2 innings. And, finally, at Triple-A, Maloney posted a 3.18 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP and a 23/6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings.

In his minor league career, Maloney has a 3.4 BB/9 and a 9.4 K/9. In addition, he gets a heavy amount of groundball outs due to his good sinker, which will play well in Great American Ball Park. On average, Maloney has GB% of up over 40% for his minor league career.

While his stuff is not considered to be above average, the results certainly are.

PITCHING MECHANICS

Mechanically, Maloney is sound. He works from a three-quarters arm slot, rather than a pure over the top slot. He has a clean, efficient delivery that doesn't have any unnecessary movement. He doesn't have a lot of effort in his delivery, which isn't unexpected considering his lower velocity, but it still should reduce his chances of injury. His arm action is clean and efficient, which makes his delivery much easier to repeat.

Unlike Travis Wood, Maloney's leg kick doesn't wrap around his body, but rather it stays pretty much in line with his "glove-side" (GS) shoulder. Wood coils his body up, which enables him to store more energy and impart more velocity on the ball. Maloney's straighter leg kick doesn't create as much power as Wood's coiled approach.

One thing that's a bit unorthodox with Maloney is that he throws across his body (which you can see in these photos, note the closed position of the Glove Side leg and the cross-fire action of the arm). His "glove-side" (GS) leg lands outside of his original foot position on the rubber. In essence, when he plants his GS leg it lands closer to first base than his feet were to begin with. This leaves his body closed off from home plate, so he has to throw across his body in order to deliver the ball to home plate. This also results in Maloney falling off the mound towards the third base side, as his momentum is going that way from having to throw across his body. Accordingly, he isn't in the best of fielding positions at the end of his delivery.

You can access the link to Maloney's MLB draft scouting video here.

All in all, Maloney's mechanics are fundamentally sound, which should result in consistent results and a decreased risk of injury.

FUTURE

Maloney is an interesting prospect. The scouts will tell you that his stuff isn't good enough to be a quality starting pitcher, but he keeps having substantial success as he climbs the ladder. His great strikeout rate defies his reputation for average stuff. It'll be interesting to see if pitching savvy and guile can overcome less than elite stuff. To date, his performance at every level necessitates a bump in his potential ceiling to that of a #3 starter, but whether his stuff will play at the MLB level remains to be seen. Of course, that's the same question that's been raised at each stop of his career, but at some point the argument that is stuff won't play at higher levels must yield to the fact that his stuff IS playing well at the higher levels.

For now, the crafty lefty Matt Maloney comes in at #13.

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