Steinert High School in Trenton, New Jersey was stacked with pitching in 2001. At the time, the pecking order went Michael Rogers, Chris Neylan and Matt Sweeney. Rogers decided to go on to college and pitched at North Carolina State, delaying his entry into professional ball, but finding himself taken in the second round of the 2004 Draft by Oakland. Neylan was drafted in the 20th round of the 2001 Draft by Toronto and has struggled to find his way, making it only as high as Class-A ball at this point in his career. The Phillies took Sweeney nine rounds ahead of Neylan and they've been happy with the results.
The 22 year old right-hander started 2005 at Clearwater, where he had finished 2004. Before long though, he was struggling and found himself back with the Lakewood BlueClaws by early June. Later in the season, he returned to Clearwater and pitched better than he did earlier in the season, posting a 3.81 ERA over four August starts for the Threshers. From there, it was a quick trip to Reading for one successful start at AA before the season ended.
While not everything went perfectly for Sweeney in 2005, he showed poise and battled through the bad outings without getting down on himself. He has continued to progress and after five professional seasons, his record of 21-42 belies how well he's pitched. The Phillies are pleased with Sweeney's progress and his 4.26 career ERA. His pitches have all gotten better since joining the pro ranks and it appears that he's ready to start moving up the ladder.
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2001 Draft out of Steinert High School in Trenton, New Jersey.
Repertoire: Sweeney has always had a pretty good fastball. As he's matured, he's gaining some velocity, but he can't rely on simply blowing away hitters. He gets good movement on his fastball and throws a two-seam fastball that sinks down in the zone and has been effective for him. His slider is getting much better, but still isn't where he'll need it to be. He mixes his pitches well, but his control abandons him from time-to-time.
Projection: In high school, Sweeney pitched a lot as a closer. The Phillies like the sink on his two-seamer, but don't feel he has enough control or enough heat to be a closer at the major league level. Primarily, Sweeney has been a starter in the pro ranks and is likely to stay in that role. He will still need to keep developing his secondary pitches and get more control, but he has a shot at being a fairly decent starting pitcher.
ETA: The last two seasons, Sweeney has started the season slowly. In 2004, the Phillies went ahead and promoted him to Clearwater, almost out of necessity, but in '05, he went back to Lakewood and then made a late season pilgrimage back to Clearwater and then onto Reading. It will be interesting to see where the Phillies will start Sweeney in 2006. The Reading rotation figures to be stacked and they may decide just to keep him at Clearwater to start the season and then move him along as some of the Reading staff moves up to AAA, which is likely to happen before too long. With that being said, it's going to take Sweeney a little while yet until he makes it to the majors. It will be at least 2008 until he figures to get even a whiff of the majors.
Comparison: When you watch the Phillies this season and watch Ryan Franklin pitch, keep that in mind when you think of Matt Sweeney. Their build is very similar and the pitches they throw are also very similar. Just like Franklin, Sweeney can be very good at times, only to struggle a short distance down the road.