Giants Top 50: #18 - Michael Mooney

Mooney has long been called ‘his own worst enemy,' and has earned a reputation of being a hard critic of himself. But Mooney has little to be truly upset about; he's a talented young player with a number of tools. But can he let up long enough to make something of his potential?

Date of Birth: 06/08/1983 Position: OF Height: 6'1" Weight: 205 Bats: R Throws: R
Acquired: Drafted in the 16th Round (#483 Overall) in the 2003 Draft
2006 Stats
Augusta - Low-A .287 .355 .439 .795 494 82 142 28 7 11 74 44 115 38 10

After three seasons playing just short-season ball, Mooney finally got his shot at full-season baseball.  By all accounts, he did a good job.

Mooney's 2006 season in Augusta is a well-rounded collection of statistics.  He showed solid contact, power, and speed, but didn't excel particularly at any.  His stats are more impressive when taken into consideration with his teammates on a strong Augusta team.

He was tied for second on the team with home runs, and was third in both doubles (only one behind the team-high) and triples.  He was 4th in batting average and 2nd in slugging.  And he was third in stolen bases on a team with a lot of speed.

But minor league baseball is littered with the failed hopes of players with some talent in a lot of areas but not overwhelming talent in any single area.  Will Mooney be different?

The key to Mooney's success, or failure, may be all in his head.

Mooney's become infamous for his temper, but it's never directed at others.  "Mooney is his worst critic, sometimes too hard on himself," Augusta's Manager Roberto Kelly said of Mooney after the outfielder was chosen to represent the team in the SAL All-Star game.  He's always been emotional, but the sense is that he can sometimes prolong his troubles by being too hard on himself.

But by the same token, his drive and his fire helps him make more of his tools.  Mooney may have been the 4th fastest player on a team with speedsters all-around, but he completed an incredible feat the first half of the season.  Mooney wasn't caught stealing on the year until July 1st, a span during which he stole 23 bases.

"Mooney has been real good for us as far as being able to pick up a pitcher.  He's not the fastest runner, but he gets pretty good jumps," Kelly said of Mooney in the playoffs.  Kelly, a notable fan of ‘small ball,' tried to teach his players how to read pitchers on the bench, and learn when to go, and Mooney soaked up that mentoring like a sponge.

Mooney's speed brings a new dimension to his game.  A former top Junior College player at the College of San Mateo, Mooney has some power that continues to develop, but it's unlikely to ever become enough to be his calling card, and he will rely as heavily on doubles and triples to boost his slugging as he will on home runs.  By making the most of being on the basepaths, Mooney becomes something of a double-threat offensively.

Mooney also combines this with strong defense.  Mooney is a former center fielder who has moved to right.  His range is strong for a right fielder, but most notably, he has an arm that has regularly been rated as one of the best in the system.  The result is a strong defender, and an undeniable asset in the field.

But for all the optimism Mooney's ability brings, Mooney's reality is frustrating.  In 2003, Mooney was a 20 year old who was put in rookie ball in Arizona, hardly a surprise.  But in 2004, Mooney surprisingly stayed there.  While Mooney answered with a big season, repeating the level hurt his progress.  In 2005, he moved up but was still in short-season ball by playing in Salem-Keizer, alongside players just coming out of the draft.

Mooney will turn 24 in July, so his progress is reaching the now-or-never mode, as he hasn't even played High-A ball.

That makes the decision about where Mooney will play in 2007 all the more interesting.

San Jose would seem to be a great situation for Mooney.  The park, with a deep right center corner, seems a perfect fit for Mooney both offensively and defensively.  The offensively friendly park would help the often critical player, and playing near his bay area home would definitely be a positive.  However, staying in Single-A would keep his progress painfully slow, and make him unlikely to even sniff the higher-levels of the minors before turning the landmark prospect age of 25.

Meanwhile, Connecticut could be a nightmare.  A severe pitcher's park and league could take a mental toll, and his strikeout total might indicate he's not ready for the higher levels.  But a push to Double-A would help decide whether or not Mooney is for real, and could propel him to a fast-track.  And Mooney did play in an eastern league that is not hitter friendly in 2006.

The decision on Mooney certainly won't happen until his spring training performance, but it may come down to how delicate the Giants choose to be with him.  With the mental part of the game being the toughest and most important part to deal with, it might be time for the Giants to give Mooney a push and see how he responds.

Mooney's ceiling would be an intriguing major leaguer.  At best, he could become a Jose Cruz, Jr. type of player with less power but more speed.  Mooney, like Cruz, has the type of range and arm that fits AT&T Park to a T, but also has strikeout issues.  He's not a prototypical right fielder, but he would fit into the apparent Sabean vision of a team based on speed and defense.  But first, perhaps he needs to convince himself that he will be that player before he can convince everyone else.

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