Matt Maloney likely could have put himself into position to be drafted in a couple different ways. He's best known for his prowess as a college starting pitcher, but he started his final college season as his team's closer and was pretty impressive in that role as well. Plus, he's an above average hitter who may have been able to find himself being put into a position player's job if he wasn't as good of a pitcher as he is. In other words, the Phillies got a pretty talented young guy with their third round pick in the 2005 Draft.
The Phillies were looking at Maloney as a starter all the way. At the time that Maloney was drafted, Randy Wolf was hurt and Cole Hamels hadn't established that he could stay healthy, so the Phillies were thinking about the future of left-handers for their starting rotation. Maloney fit the bill and the Phillies were able to keep him from going back to Ole Miss for his final season of college eligibility. He pitched well at Batavia in his first pro season and followed that up with an impressive season at Lakewood in 2006, helping the 'Claws to the South Atlantic League championship. He led the South Atlantic League in Wins (16), Strikeouts (180), Shutouts (1), Innings Pitched (168.2), ERA (2.03) and Complete Games (2). Not bad for a 21 year old left-hander in his first full-season outing.
Matt Maloney's career stats
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2005 Draft out of the University of Mississippi.
Repertoire: One of the reasons why Maloney isn't going to be a reliever is because he can throw four pitches and throws them all well. His fastball and curve are the most effective and he's able to run his fastball away from right-handed hitters. His curve is a big 12-to-6 curve that hitters may even know is coming, but simply can't get a hold of. His slider and change-up are lagging behind his fastball and curve, but they're still effective pitches.
Pitching: Maloney does a lot of things well on the mound. He's allowed just seven home runs in just over 200 professional innings, which works out to an average of one home run every 27 innings. That will play very well at Citizens Bank Park. He also has a good walk/strikeout ratio of almost 2.5 strikeouts for every walk that he issues. Over his first two seasons, opponents are hitting just .209 against him and that includes his 2005 season when opponents hit .277 against him in the New York / Penn League. Maloney has good size (6' 4", 220 pounds) and good mechanics, which would seem to indicate that he has at least the potential to be a big innings eater. He also has a good, poised attitude on the mound and is ready for anything that's thrown at him.
Projection: It's going to be very tempting to push Maloney to Double-A Reading in 2007. He may start at Clearwater, but get a quick call if he's pitching well through the first month or so of the season. There is no reason to think that Maloney will struggle at any of the higher levels because he does all the little things well and has the tools that should prevent better hitters from doing too much against him. His fastball has good movement, he's got four pitches to count on and he keeps the ball down in the zone. He could easily rise to where he could become a candidate to fill at least the number two spot in a major league rotation someday.
ETA: The only question is how the Phillies will handle Maloney. Best case scenario is that he could be fighting for a job at the major league level by 2009. Worst case scenario is that he won't be there until 2010, but odds are he'll be ready for the call by the time the the 2009 Spring Training rolls around.
Comparison: One of the Phillies scouts who followed Maloney at Ole Miss compared him to Steve Trout, but commented that he would get better than that. The usual comparisons to Randy Wolf have been brought up, but odds are that Maloney could also be better than the former Phillies starter who now calls Los Angeles home.