Name: Carlos Melo
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: February 27, 1991
Acquired: 2008 trade from Detroit with RHP Guillermo Moscoso for C Gerald Laird
Right-hander Carlos Melo made arguably the most progress of any Rangers pitching prospect during the 2010 season.
Melo's 2009 state-side debut was rough in all aspects. Pitching with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers, he posted a 7.09 ERA over 12 starts, giving up 60 hits in 47 innings. He flashed plus velocity but showed little command, particularly with his two secondary offerings.
Repeating the rookie Arizona League last summer, Melo's improvement became evident by his second start. On June 30 against the AZL Padres, the 6-foot-3 hurler tossed five hitless innings, walking just one and striking out four.
Then-Surprise Rangers manager Jayce Tingler chalked the outing up to Melo's ability to focus mentally and attack hitters with more of a plan.
"(That) outing was just the ability to focus and stay locked in for five innings," Tingler said over the summer. "He pitched well the first time, but he struggled for two innings and just had a little mental hiccup and wasn't able to lock in and execute pitches in the third inning.
"Then the pitch count gets up and he's not able to finish. I think he learned from it. Hopefully he can build on it, stay locked in, and stay focused on keeping the ball down in the zone and obviously pitching off his fastball."
The 19-year-old's next outing was similarly solid, as he limited the AZL Reds to two hits over six shutout frames. When the dust settled on the 2010 campaign, Melo had his share of ups and downs but was generally a much-improved pitcher.
Overall, he posted a 3.83 ERA over 12 starts. In 51.2 innings, Melo yielded 41 hits while walking 26 and striking out 65. The numbers didn't include a 13-strikeout, six-inning effort against the Brewers in the Arizona League semifinal game.
While the overall results often varied from start-to-start, the Dominican Republic native's strikeout numbers improved as the summer progressed. Including the postseason outing, Melo fanned 43 batters in 25.2 innings over his final five starts.
Melo was certainly working with more consistent offspeed stuff last summer, as his hard curveball and changeup became more reliable. But, as Tingler says, it's ultimately all about pitching off his excellent fastball.
"(The secondary stuff) is definitely coming along, but his big deal is locating his fastball well enough over the plate," he said. "That's his put-away pitch––that's his go-to pitch. The secondary is going to come. The curveball is starting to tighten up a little bit, and he's getting the feel for a changeup––especially against left-handed batters, to keep them off the fastball. His key is that fastball."
After the Surprise Rangers' season came to a close, Melo earned a late-season promotion to short-season Spokane. He showed promise in his lone outing with the Indians, tossing five innings of one-hit ball, walking four and striking out three.
Melo's 2010 campaign by itself was plenty solid for a 19-year-old prospect in rookie ball. But it was made all the more impressive given his massive struggles in '09. The prospect came a long way and will look to make similar improvements in 2011.
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jayce Tingler (July 6, 2010)
Seven teams, seven sleepers (December 26, 2010)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: When the Rangers initially acquired Melo in '08, he garnered comparisons to Wilmer Font due to a fastball that could supposedly flirt with the upper-90s. Melo hasn't shown that kind of heat, but he has bumped 95-96 mph on occasion over the last two years. His fastball explodes out of his hand and generally sits between 89-93 mph with good life, making him difficult to hit when he commands the pitch within the strike zone. He did a much better job of ‘pitching' with his fastball last summer rather than trying to simply blow it by every hitter he faced. The result was not only more strikeouts, but also much better numbers across the board.
Other Pitches: One of Melo's primary issues during a rocky '09 campaign was his inability to throw his breaking ball for strikes, let alone use it as an out pitch. His hard curveball, while still inconsistent, was much improved last season. The pitch doesn't have much depth but sits around 84 mph with slurvy action that was difficult for hitters to square up. Though the curve wasn't dominant, it at least flashed solid-average potential. The 19-year-old also showed signs of progress and increased confidence in his raw-but-improving changeup.
Projection: Melo might ultimately reside in the bullpen as a late-inning reliever, but he should remain a starter for the time being in order to develop his pitchability and secondary stuff. His lively fastball could touch the mid-90s more often in shorter bullpen stints, and he'll only need to develop one usable secondary pitch to excel as a reliever. After a very rough showing in '09, the prospect made plenty of progress in becoming more of a ‘pitcher' than a ‘thrower' last summer. The recent improvements in terms of fastball command and both secondary pitches––in addition to his strong 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame––give him an outside shot of sticking as a starting pitcher.
2011 Outlook: While Melo took significant strides in 2010, he still isn't particularly polished overall. The Rangers will most likely keep the hurler at Extended Spring Training this season until the short-season Spokane slate begins in late-June. The righty should work as one of the team's starting pitchers and could get an opportunity with Single-A Hickory late in the season if he excels.
|2008||DSL Tigers (DSL)||3-3||49.0||47||20||61||5.14|
|2009||AZL Rangers (RK)||1-4||47.0||60||24||45||7.09|
|2010||AZL Rangers (RK)||3-4||51.2||41||26||65||3.83|
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