First Half Surprises No. 5: Joe Mahoney

With the full-season All-Star games complete, takes a look at the top five prospect surprises of the first half of the 2009 season. Inside, the countdown begins at No. 5.

5. 1B/DH Joe Mahoney, Age 22, Draft: 6th round 2007 (189th overall)

.293 AVG, .340 OBP, .422 SLG, .762 OPS, 14 2b, 6 3b, 3 HR, 21 SB, CS 1

Joe Mahoney has come back in a big way after struggling through his first full season last year. Though he was never really 100 percent healthy last year, his numbers could, and should have been better. The big left-handed first baseman is still listed at 6-7, 255 pounds, but reports are that he has slimmed down.

Yes, the power is down, but perhaps this is coming back. He has hit a pair of home runs in his last six games. One of the better sides of this, though, is his contact. He has only struck out 55 times in 270 at-bats, or 18.5 percent of the time. Last year he struck out 96 times in 352 at-bats, or 38 percent of the time. Also, while a .762 OPS is low for a corner infielder, it is still a 138-point improvement over 2008.

But, the biggest surprise of all is his speed and athleticism. While health may have been an issue last year, he is showing he is no longer a one-dimensional player. His six triples this year are twice the amount he had in his professional career entering 2009. Then, there is the elephant in the room, the 21 stolen bases in 22 attempts. His base-running was one of his strong points while in college, he swiped 16 bases in his junior year at Richmond in just 60 games, but his success rate is remarkable.

To put this in perspective, Mahoney is second in stolen bases on the team which has true 80 runner Kyle Hudson and speed demons Xavier Avery, Jerome Hoes and Greg Miclat. Both Hudson and Avery have 22 stolen bases, but have been caught 11 and nine times respectively. Hoes and Miclat have combined for 24 stolen bases in 34 attempts.

As a repeat guy, in Single-A Delmarva, if Mahoney continues his solid season, he may earn a promotion if room is created in Frederick. Also, at 22, it is expected that he produce at this level, but if he is in Frederick to start next season, he should be a guy that is tabbed for a mid-season promotion if he continues his success in high-A in 2010.

In 2007, the Orioles' director of scouting, Joe Jordan, said, "Joe Mahoney has top of the scale raw power and he's making progress as a hitter, but again, it's in there, and that's what you got and you chase power. Power is hard to find. The guys that figure out how to hit the pitchers in the strike zone are going to be able to use their power. The guys that don't are going to hit one on occasion and it's not going to play."

Now that he is starting to shrink his massive strike zone created by his 6-7 frame and making more contact, expect the power to come back around soon.

As for Mahoney's defense, he has had to break out the outfielder's glove this year, but not nearly as much in the past. This is not going to be his destination, but any versatility a player has increases his value to an organization. As for his play at first base, it continues to be solid. He has committed just three errors this season, just one more than last year in three fewer games, but over the past two seasons, his five errors is still better than the seven he committed in 39 games at first in Aberdeen.

His size, power and base-running ability certainly make him an intriguing prospect and should be one to follow over the next couple of years.

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