Monday, February 25, 2008

Sherman: Melancon May Be 'Next'

Joel Sherman, a great source for Yankee management information - but not so much on player development - offered another piece on the emergence of Mark Melancon.
The article, titled "Melancon The Next Joba?" tells the abridged story of the righthanded reliever's organizational rise, though he has yet to do anything besides close out the NY Penn league playoffs.
Melancon throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball along with a nasty power curveball and a developing changeup. The four-seamer ranges from 92-94 and tops out at 96 mph, but the two-seam sinker is his real fastball weapon which runs from 90-93 mph. He sinks the ball expertly, but the lateral movement is filthy as well. His power curveball is reminiscient of Josh Beckett's or K-Rods, in that it is thrown in the 82-84 mph range and looks like a fastball before diving into the dirt. Ian Kennedy - who was a PAC-10 rival in college - calls his curve "the Melancon."
As this Yankees blog and countless others had implied months ago, Melancon has the ability and the moxy to become a late inning weapon this year. If he can recapture the level of performance he had while closing games at the University of Arizona, Melancon can eventually become Mariano Rivera's replacement - as Baseball America contends in their annual prospect handbook.
Of course, such a solution remains several months and several leaps away from fruition as Melancon has to first conquer Tampa, Trenton and Scranton's minor league levels before sniffing the big leagues. He also has to prove himself to be a durable power arm completely recovered from last fall's Tommy John surgery.
Furthermore, the path which Joba Chamberlain takes will determine Melancon's route, as a move of Joba to the rotation midseason would open up a major hole in the Yankees bullpen. An opportunity which Melancon would drool over.
From the Sherman piece:
Mark Melancon did not pitch an inning last season. He has pitched 62/3 innings in his entire minor league career. Yet, Yankees officials speculate Melancon could pull a Joba, emulating Mr. Chamberlain by rocketing from the Florida State League to late-inning Yankee relevance in one season. This season.

"I thank Joba for opening that door," Melancon said after a simulated two-inning batting practice session.

The scouting report on Melancon is above-average fastball with command (though his control was sketchy yesterday), a power curve that some in the organization equate as an out pitch to Chamberlain's slider and, as Nick Green, who hit against him in the BP session, said an ability to hide the ball in his delivery. However, what every Yankees official cites as Melancon's greatest asset is a serious, professional, determined makeup.

"This guy wants to compete and will not get rattled," minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said.
If the Yanks were to get nothing else from that process besides Kennedy and Chamberlain, it would be considered an excellent draft. But the Yanks think they will get more. Oppenheimer said the Yanks "felt blessed" how the draft fell, allowing them to grab six players ranked in the top 70 on their board: Kennedy, Chamberlain, Melancon, Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances and Colin Curtis. The Yanks also believe pitchers from that draft such as George Kontos and Daniel McCutchen, particularly, but perhaps David Robertson and Tim Norton, too, have a chance as major league relievers.
That is one hell of a draft just on IPK and Joba alone. But add Kennedy, Chamberlain, to McAllister, Betances, Kontos and McCutchen and all six arms are potential contributors to the 2008 season or front-line rotation prospects of the future.

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