Dodger Prospect #8 - RHP Jonathan Meloan

Jonathan Meloan, who was a strong starter for the University of Arizona and rapidly worked his way up the Dodger franchise as a relief pitcher, was deemed the "Relief Pitcher of the Year" in Double-A. The Dodgers are expected to switch him back to a starter in 2008.

The remarkable story from outstanding College starter to overpowering reliever and now back to starting is also spiced by a change of grips that gave him an excellent second pitch to go with his plus fastball.

His work for Jacksonville down the stretch in the Southern League as the Suns attempted to cling to a slim lead, earned him the title of the best AA reliever in baseball.

He was 5-2 with a a sparkling 2.18 earned run average, 19 saves (best in the franchise) and 70 strikeouts in 45 innings (12.37 per nine innings) while walking 18. He led the Dodger minor league pitchers by allowing 4.89 hits per nine innings, allowed 0.95 baserunners per inning and held opponents to a .155 average.

In a 10-game stretch from May 21 to June 11, Meloan gave up just one hit and three walks in 12.2 scoreless innings while collecting 19 strikeouts. Meloan was a perfect 14-for-14 in save situations before his mid-July promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas and gave up only four earned runs with the 51s.

His performance earned him a brief appearance in Los Angeles where he was banged about (nine runs in seven innings) as rookies are wont to do, but still struck out seven in his five appearances.

A power righthander, he has an impressive one-two punch in a 92-93 mph fastball that can hit 97, an extremely nasty cut fastball that has remarkable sink, along with a solid curve and change. Displaying great command, he dominates both left and righthanders. He is another, along with Jonathan Broxton, who could become a dominant closer or a outstanding starter.

"With most relievers, they have just two pitches to work with," Meloan said. "That second pitch might be pretty good, but if it's off, you're at the mercy of the batter with just a fastball. You can't throw any mistakes and you've got to find something else quick.

"If my cutter isn't working, I still have a curve and change, so having all those pitches allows me to be more versatile."

The Dodgers first saw John Meloan pitch for Taylor High in Houston in 2002 against James Loney who was on the mound for crosstown rival Elkins. Loney was the winner that day which isn't shocking since Elkins was the top-ranked team in the country. However, said scouts liked the manner that Meloan demonstrated and put him down in their future book.

No one drafted Meloan that year, not because he didn't display talent but rather because he had a definite lack of control over his pitches, walking far too many batters per game.

But control or not, he led the greater Houston area in strikeouts, including a 20-strikeout no-hitter, his third of his career for Taylor High.

So, with no offers in hand, he went to the University of Arizona.

"One day in the bullpen I was there with my pitching coach, Andy Lopez, and I was saying how I saw this guy throw a cutter and wished I could figure out how to throw one myself," Meloan said. "Coach then showed me right there, but I never really used it in a game.

"Later that year when I was in the Cape Cod League, I was still fiddling around with it. During a blowout, I was talking to my catcher Nick Hundley and told him that I wanted to try throwing it, so we agreed on a sign for it.

"One inning, I had two strikes on a guy with two outs and Nick called for a fastball in, but I thought he was asking for the cutter. I threw it, struck the guy out to end the inning and Nick says, 'What the hell was that?' I told him that I thought he wanted a cutter, so that's what I threw. He then said that maybe I should be throwing that a little more often."

That was an excellent suggestion. He went 10-0 as a sophomore (picking up the final win in the College World Series) and 10-3 as a junior, running his record to 18-3 over his three years in school. When he became eligible for the draft again, L.A. grabbed him in the fifth round.

But they weren't necessarily taking him with the intention of making him a starter. "We just felt that he had the mentality and the strikeout ability to succeed as a reliever," Marty Reed, the Dodgers' Minor League pitching coordinator, said. "Jon is extremely strong and aggressive on the mound, and a lot of us in the organization felt that he would get to the big leagues faster if he was in the bullpen."

Drafted in the fifth round in June of 2005, Meloan reported late to Ogden after signing not because of a contractual hang-up but because he felt he needed some time to wind down. As a result he was worked slowly into the Raptors scheme of things, first throwing some relief innings, then making the rotation in the second half.

His final won-loss record is a very deceiving 0-2 for he he was held to a strict pitch count but held opponents to a .210 batting average and a 3.29 ERA. His refined his command, striking out 54 in 39 innings while walking only 18.

In the playoffs, Ogden had dropped the first of a best-of-three set to Orem when Meloan started game two. He kept the team in in the running by throwing seven innings in which he allowed but three hits and a single run. The Raptors rallied to win the game late.

In 2006, he ripped through Columbus (1-1, 1.54), striking out a remarkable 41 in 23.2 innings (15.8 per nine innings). Bumped up to Vero he started three times, wracked up a 1-0, 2.50 record (27 Ks in 18 innings - 13.5) and finished in AA Jacksonville where he went 1-0, 1.69 and fanned 23 in 10.2 innings (19.5).

In all, he threw 52 innings, striking out 91 batters (15.8 per nine innings) while holding hitters down to a .151 average.

He then went to the Arizona Fall League where he kept up the pace, going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA. He even picked up a save there. All this led to his being invited to spring training with the parent team.

On the majority of major league teams, he would be at the top of the prospect list. The fact that he is rated eighth does no discredit to him. The margin among the Dodgers top 10 is remarkably slight.

He should leave Vero with a spot in the bullpen in 2008 or he could spend some time at Las Vegas getting reaccustomed to starting. In any event, he'll be wearing a uniform with "Dodgers" across the chest before the season ends.

His record:
Jonathan M. Meloan   br  tr  6-3  230
Born- July 11, 1984
Obtained- Selected in fifth round of 2005 draft

year	team    w-l   era  gm  gs  sv    in   h  bb  so
2005	Ogden   0-2  3.69  16   6   1  39.0  30  18  54
2006	Colmbus 1-1  1.54  12   0   1  23.1   9   7  41
	VBeach  1-0  2.50   4   3   0  18.0  15   4  27
	Jacksn  1-0  1.69   5   0   0  10.0   3   5  23 
2007	Jacksn  5-2  2.18  35   0  19  45.1  24  18  70
	LVegas  2-0  1.69  14   0   1  21.1  12   9  21