Monday, November 06, 2006

Prospect Profile: Mark Melancon (#17)

(the first of the big time prospects)
Age: 21
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 210 lbs
Drafted: 9th round in 2006 out of the University of Arizona
Position: Relief Pitcher
Throws: Right

Stuff: Oh yeah, Melancon has it. He throws a fastball between 92-97 mph. During his elbow problems, it was closer to 92, but he has since regained his power fastball. He compliments it with a plus curveball, used to get the strikeout. He also throws a changeup, which is above average. He has major strike potential, punching over a batter per inning in college. He followed that up during his brief minor league stint this season (he signed late) with 9 Ks in 8 innings. Although his arsenal is excellent, his main weapon is the deceptiveness of his delivery. He throws up-down, bringing the ball in on a sharp angle to the batter. It adds a lot of spark to his curveball and changeup.

Command: When healthy, Melancon can command all three of his pitches with expert precision. Health was the only reason that a closer of Melancon's skills slipped to the 9th round. He was the consensus top closer in the country at the time. He is no Huston Street, Craig Hanson, or J.B. Cox, but he isn't too far behind. It looks like his health is back with him. If so, he could be a deadly force in the minor leagues. He has better stuff than Cox (although Cox is a much more reliable and accomplished pitcher). Melancon is currently pitching in Hawaii, although with mixed results.

Outlook: Melancon should continue on the same track that Cox did in the minors. He should pitch about 20 innings of middle relief (the Yankees prefer that their star relief pitchers pitch as much as possible instead of just save situations) in Tampa before (if he pitches well) moving up to Trenton. Melancon certainly has the ability, given health, to find his way to New York by 2008. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to Mariano Rivera, and probably has a better chance of fulfilling that role than Cox does.

Grades: Ceiling A-, Health C-, Chance of Reaching Majors 50%, Comparison: Jose Valverde