Lone Star Dugout Video: Carlos Melo
With a fastball that reaches 99 mph, right-hander Carlos Melo will get plenty of opportunities to succeed in professional baseball.
The 21-year-old hurler is coming off a highly disappointing 2011 campaign between short-season Spokane and Single-A Hickory. Melo actually began the season in Hickory but posted an 8.59 earned-run average in 22 innings. While he yielded only 16 hits, he walked 28 and struck out 27.
The control issues forced the Rangers to send Melo back to extended spring training, where he remained until shipping out to Spokane in June. In 20.2 innings with the Indians, he logged an 8.27 ERA. It was more of the same story, as he allowed just 14 hits but walked 29 while striking out 31.
On the season in 2011, Melo issued 57 walks and struck out 58 in 42.2 innings.
Not only was Melo having control issues last season, but he was also working in the low-90s for a good chunk of the campaign. That changed during fall instructional league, though, when he suddenly began flashing plus-plus velocity.
During one fall instructional league outing against the Dodgers, Melo threw 30-plus fastballs between 96-99 mph. He also walked four batters in the inning. Still, it was intriguing to see the raw stuff beginning to improve.
The former Tigers prospect (Melo was acquired as part of the trade for Gerald Laird in 2008) missed spring training this year, as he was stuck in the Dominican Republic with visa issues. But he was ultimately cleared and returned to Arizona at the start of extended spring training.
Currently playing with the extended Surprise Rangers, Melo is pitching well but still having some control troubles. He's also still flashing the excellent raw stuff that he began showing during instructs last year.
Coming out of a seemingly low-effort delivery, Melo features a fastball that sits between 92-96 mph on some days and 95-99 on others. While he has elite velocity at times, his fastball has lots of natural life in the 92-96 range (as shown in the video). His fastball may be most effective when thrown at 93-95.
Melo's slider has also progressed during the last year. The 80-83 mph offering shows plus potential with sharp, late break and plenty of depth.
But none of that will matter if Melo can't begin to throw strikes with more consistency. The Dominican Republic native appears to be in better shape this season, though his body––and ability to repeat his delivery––remains a concern.
Although his slider is sharp, it's not much of a factor if he can't get ahead with his fastball. In the video shown below, Melo began his outing with 20 consecutive fastballs because he was having trouble throwing it for a strike. When he began getting ahead in counts, he was able to unleash the breaking ball as a put-away pitch.
I saw Melo make two relief appearances during my recent visit to extended spring training. In the first, on May 8, he worked a 1-2-3 inning while throwing eight of his 16 pitches for a strike. He got a strikeout, a popout, and a flyout while showing a 92-95 mph fastball and a pair of 80-82 mph sliders.
During his May 12 outing, which is shown in the video below, the 6-foot-3 prospect was even more electric. But he also remained erratic. Melo ran his fastball up to 98 mph, and his slider was good. The first half of the frame showed his frustrating side––unable to locate his fastball and walking two of the first three hitters he faced. The last three hitters showed the promising side––throwing strikes while sitting at a lively 93-95 mph and getting 98 when he needs it.
To sum it up, Melo has all the necessary tools for success, and that's exactly what makes his control issues so frustrating. Easily more of a ‘thrower' than a ‘pitcher,' Melo shows elite velocity, lots of fastball life, an easy delivery, and a sharp breaking ball. But, as mentioned, he's coming off a season in which he issued 57 walks in 42.2 innings.
At 21 years of age, it's too early to give up on Melo. He didn't begin consistently showing this type of stuff until late last season. He's also a definite long-shot prospect, but if he hits, he has late-inning relief potential.
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