Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 Top Prospect List: #14 Matt Maloney, lhp

Matt Maloney
Height 6-4, Weight 220, B/T: L/L, DOB: 01/16/1984
2008 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #13


While the young international prospects in the system (Y.Rodriguez and J.Duran) may be the mystery men, Matt Maloney seems to be the forgotten man. Maloney continues to put up quality production against advanced competition, but he just doesn't seem to be in the organization's plans for the future.

Whether it's because the Reds have more pitching depth than they have had in a long time or because they don't view Maloney as a quality prospect is unclear. Whatever the reason, Maloney seems like a bit of a longshot to have an impact at the MLB level in 2009. Despite being ready for the majors, he may need an injury to a Reds starting pitcher or a trade to get a legitimate look at the MLB level.


2008 SEASON

The Reds sent Matt Maloney back to triple-A Louisville for 2008. In 2007, Maloney made an late season appearance in triple-A where he performed quite well. He posted a 3.18 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and a 23/6 k/BB ratio in 17.0 innings. However, Maloney didn't crack the 2008 MLB rotation and returned to Louisville to work on his craft.

Unfortunately, things couldn't have started off much worse for Maloney last season. In 23.0 innings in April, Maloney posted a 6.65 ERA. However, his poor start was really the product of poor luck, rather than ineffective pitching on his part. In April, he suffered from a BABIP of .435, which is far too high. The terrible start seemed to define his season in the eyes of many, despite the fact that he was very effective over the rest of the season.

In May, he pitched 38.2 innings and posted a 2.56 ERA. Not surprisingly, his BABIP regressed to .257 and his ERA dropped significantly. He was back on track and performed quite well over the course of the season. However, his poor start seems to have caused his prospect stock to drop.

Overall, Maloney posted a 4.68 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 132/39 K/BB ratio in 140.1 innings. His record was impressive, as he earned 11 wins and only 5 losses. His ERA certainly wasn't impressive, but his 8.5 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 4.11 FIP are solid. His BABIP was also a bit too high at .321, so that could fall a bit in 2009. While his rough first month may overshadow his 2008 season, in actuality it was another solid effort by Maloney.

REPERTOIRE AND MECHANICS

If a lefthanded pitching prospect strikes out almost a batter an inning against advanced competition, then one would think that he would be pretty highly regarded. However, scouts downgrade Maloney on the basis of his repertoire, which consists of four solid pitches.

Maloney throws a fastball that sits in the 87-89 mph range and has very good late sink. His best pitch is his plus changeup, which he's not afraid to throw in any situation. He also has a big looping 11-5 curveball and a fringy slider. Unfortunately, his velocity lowers his ceiling, but Maloney understands how to pitch and keep hitters off-balance. He certainly gets the most out of his abilities and his understanding of pitching allows his tools to play up a notch.

As for his mechanics, Maloney is fundamentally sound. I took an in-depth look at his mechanics in last year's write up, but I'll revisit them a bit more here. The defining aspect of his delivery is his slight cross-fire arm action. His plant foot lands closer to the first base side than normal and as a result he has a closed off delivery (which you can somewhat see in the first photo) which requires him to use a cross-fire arm action. He also doesn't coil his body with his leg kick, so his hips and shoulders stay on a line from 2b-to-homeplate which reduces the overall energy that he can impart on the baseball. Also, his combination of a closed off delivery and cross-fire arm action often results in his body falling off towards third base on the follow-through, which doesn't put him in ideal fielding position after the pitch.












Maloney's height allows him to throw on a downward plane, which he does despite using a three-quarter arm slot. Below, you can clearly see his arm slot in the photo on left, which shows that he doesn't use a pure over-the-top delivery. In the photo on the right, Maloney demonstrates a good arm position, as his elbow isn't too high and it is on pace to be up in throwing position when his plant foot lands, which is what you want to see. As a general rule, the pitching arm should be up in throwing position with the forearm perpendicular to the ground when the plant foot lands. In the photo on the right, Maloney still has his arm parallel to the ground, but his foot hasn't landed yet and he will bring it up into position in time. If the arm isn't up in throwing position when the plant foot lands, then it is lagging behind and it could create problems with consistency and increase the stress on the arm. You can also see that Maloney takes a nice long stride and gets a good push off the rubber.














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

CONCLUSION

Maloney is a solid prospect. He may not have the tools of the more elite prospects, but he maximizes the production that he gets from his tools. He understands how to pitch and how to keep hitters offbalance. His upside is probably only that of a #4 starter, but that's certainly not without value. A homegrown back-end of the rotation starting pitcher, especially a southpaw, is a good asset at the MLB level, as it prevents the team from having to lavish expensive salaries on league average talent to round out the 25-man roster.

Overall, Maloney posted another good season in 2008. Even so, he seems, once again, to be on the outside-looking-in. He doesn't seem to be in the mix for a spot in the rotation and wasn't considered for a spot in the bullpen, as evidenced by the Arthur Rhodes signing. Given that Maloney will be 25-years old in the 2009 season, it's time for the Reds to either find a role for him or trade him away for an asset that can be utilized at the MLB level. Time will tell what they choose to do, but for now Maloney checks in at #14 on the list.

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