Matt Sweeney has shown some ups and downs in his young minor league career. The Phillies had him listed above two of his high school classmates, even though both were generally thought of as better prospects than Sweeney at the time. Michael Rogers decided to head for college ball at North Carolina State and wasn't drafted until three years after Sweeney when Oakland took him in the second round of the 2004 Draft. In his three pro seasons, Rogers has gone 18-18 with a 5.22 ERA as a pro. Chris Neylan was selected nine rounds behind Sweeney in the 2001 Draft and lasted in the pros only through the 2004 season.
Originally, the Phillies valued Sweeney as a starter, but had him working out of the bullpen last season, giving him just one start with Clearwater. He pitched 34 games in relief between Clearwater and Reading, posting a combined mark of 0-5, 5.91. Sweeney had come into the season with encouraging stats, but with a lot to learn. His slider hasn't developed as had been hoped and he has never shown much velocity with his fastball. In 2006, his sometimes erratic control became much more pronounced as he walked 5.1 hitters per nine innings, while walking 3.4 hitters per nine innings in his prior seasons.
Some believe that Sweeney was simply trying to do too much and that the move back to the bullpen hurt him. Just where Sweeney will start the 2007 season and what role he'll be pitching out of isn't clear.
Matt Sweeney's 2006 Stats
2006 Prospect Ranking: 41
Status: Sweeney will be exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but it's unlikely that anyone will take him, at least not in the Major League Phase of the draft. The coming season will be very important for Sweeney's career and it will be interesting to see which way he winds up going. There is definitely some talent there, but perhaps not enough for him to survive long-term.
Scouting Notes: The hope was that Sweeney's slider, which was improving, would continue to get better. Unfortunately, it appears that it isn't going to get any better, meaning that he'll need to come up with some other pitch to compliment his fastball. While he doesn't get a lot of velocity, Sweeney had been able to keep the fastball down in the zone and get good movement on it. This past season, his location deserted him and he was left with a fastball that was hittable for professional hitters, especially at the AA level.
Analysis: The Phillies probably reached for Sweeney when they grabbed him in the 11th round of the 2001 Draft. While they could have gotten him later in the draft, there is no horrible shame in using an 11th round pick on a guy like this. After all, he has some talent and coming out of high school, it was tough to determine how he would develop. The Phillies thought he would be well served by getting their coaching than if he attended college, and apparently, so did Sweeney. It's not out of the question that Sweeney will turn things around, but he either needs to develop better control and get back to having the heavy, sinking fastball that he showed prior to 2006 or he'll be in trouble He will also need to make one of his other pitches much better than they are, if his slider doesn't improve.
Look for our ranking of the Top 50 Phillies Prospects coming in January, 2007.