Mid-Season Scouting Report: RHP, Matthew DeSalvo

Matthew DeSalvo, an undrafted free agent (UFA) who signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees in 2003, is rapidly climbing the prospect rankings and is making quite a name for himself while currently pitching for the AA-Trenton Thunder. Find out more about DeSalvo's repertoire and his background in Andy Braunstein's scouting report from the "Braunstein Report". PinstripesPlus Club Members can find out right now.

Name: Matthew DeSalvo
Pos.: RHP
DOB: 9/11/80
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 175 lbs
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: Union Area (New Castle, PA)
College: Marietta College
How Obtained by Yankees: Undrafted free agent signee, 2003.

PITCHES

FASTBALL: 6-.6.5 rating(scale of 8)
Speed: 87-93 - Velocity wise it's a 5.5-6 but gets the extra points due to the movement of his fastball. It has natural sink and his 2-seam fastball dips and runs right. He also keeps it nice and low making it a very formidable pitch, especially to righties. Due to his arm angle, lefties get a better look at it. DeSalvo also tends to nibble the corners to them while to righties he's more aggressive. Goes to it 69% of the time to righties, only 64% to lefties. It's on the money an outstanding 79% to right-handers, just 64% to lefties (remember the nibbling). When he's ahead vs right-handers, it goes up to 82% and he's 16-0 in 2 K counts showing a killer instinct. It's his main pitch, but not only his only outpitch. He'll go with whatever works.

CURVEBALL: 5.5-6 rating
Speed: 73-76 - A tight, 12-6 type. Uses it more vs lefties, dropping it over the outside corner, sometimes go inside. Use goes from 4% to righties to 10% versus lefties. Accuracy is a nice 75%. Like all his pitches, the curveball was picked up on his own in high school.

SLIDER: 6 rating
Speed: 77-79 - A "slurvy" slider. More sweep to right than drop. Goes to it early in the count then that's about it. Uses his slider more when he's ahead in the count than when he is behind. His slider is virtually nonexistent to lefties as they'll get a good look at it. Gets it over at a 75% clip. His slider was his outpitch in college. In the pros, it's his #2 pitch, second only to his fastball.

CHANGE: 6-6.5 rating
Speed: 76-79 - Straight change-up - It's a nice late dropper that has good deception. It's the pitch he misses the mark with most, throwing it for strikes 43% of the time to righties, and 64% against lefties. Just like a good CU, leaves hitters swatting air.

SPLITTER: Still working on this pitch. Doesn't choke ball that much and claims it's more like a forkball. May have thrown one in a game. If he did, it's at 83 mph.

DELIVERY: It's a high over-head type. Brings it down to top shoulders then drops his hand back low where hitters get a brief look before he comes forward finishing at a 10 o'clock angle. That angle is new, just done a few weeks into the season. Before he was real over the top. Leg lift is moderate and his plant is pretty solid so not much more speed could be scratched out by loading up more. Gets over well, leading to his high strikes to balls ratio. Shows poise on the mound and doesn't seem daunted if he falls behind in count.

OUTLOOK:

Cup of Coffee: 75%
Stay a Bit: 50%
Regular: 33%
Star: 15%

The Yankees have a certain type and usually UFA signs are far from it. But not DeSalvo. He has the fastball, in the low 90s, with enough control and poise for the Yankees to get excited about him...and the Yankees need pitching prospects. Their Major League staff is aging rapidly and they may need to replace as many as three starting pitchers at season's end, having a few starting pitchers in their system to fill the gap. There's Chien-Ming Wang, Sean Henn then a whole bunch in DeSalvo's level. DeSalvo reminds us of a right-handed Brandon Claussen, in velocity and control. The biggest worry about DeSalvo is if new delivery puts new strain on his shoulder which may cause short-term problems as he strengthens his muscles, or worse, major ones. The plan coming into the 2004 season was to promote DeSalvo to AA-Trenton should he have success at Tampa, which he obviously did.

Matthew DeSalvo was born and raised in New Castle, PA, which is 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and it's about a hundred from Cleveland. Yet in the DeSalvo household, and among Matt's many aunts, uncles and cousins in town they formed an enclave of Yankee fans. So when the Yankees came aknocking before draft day one would think that he would ask where does he sign. Though he was inclined to sign with the Yankees, it really came down to the best offer and that's what the Yankees did, topping those from the Reds with an offer of $30,000 over the Reds' $5,000 offer.

That it had to come to that, being signed as an undrafted free-agent, is a mystery to Matt, not to mention hurtful. All he wanted to do from as early as he could remember was be a Major League baseball player, and until this year, all it was, was a dream.

He understood why interest may have been low out of high school. He was small. He went from a 5'5 as a freshman to 5' 9 his Sr year and that he came from lightly scouted area of West Pennsylvania didn't help either. Despite that, he points out that his high school team won its section once and would always go a few rounds in the State playoffs before bowing out in the quarter or semifinal rounds. And that wasn‘t a mean feat. His high school had only 400 students but beat teams two times or more their size. DeSalvo credits that to the bulk of the team playing together in summer ball, gaining trust and unity.

Though he dreamed of being in pro ball, he prepared himself for a life without it. With no schools chasing him, offering scholarships and the few schools that were 2-year junior colleges, academics were a major factor for him. Smart, he had a 3.5 GPA, widely read and with an interest in the environment, he doesn't have the usual background of a pro baseball player. At one point he wanted to be a smoke jumper and fight forest fires. His Dad talked him out of it.

Though no one would offer him a baseball scholarship, Marietta College's coach kept sending brochures. His persistence, and that they were starting a new Environmental Science major, the southeast OH school, just across the river from West Virginia, was a perfect fit.

There he put on a few more inches. And his coach made a decision. He came in as a pitcher/shortstop, after one day of working out at short, it was his last. He was rewarded with 4 years of outstanding service capped with Marietta being a runner-up in the ‘03 Div. III World Series.

But what did he have to do to get noticed by the scouts? In 2002 Mark Prior was a junior at USC, yet, who beat him in K's? DeSalvo did, 205 to Prior's 202. DeSalvo also led the NCAA in wins with 17. He also was the Div. III Player of the Year. Prior was taken 2nd overall in the ‘02 draft. Also, draft eligible DeSalvo was ignored. And his 2002 season wasn't a fluke, in ‘01 he led Div. III in wins and strikeouts (133).

It wasn't a complete shutout from pro ball. In high school he went to tryout camps in his area and though he didn't get any offers, he was told his fastball, at 85-88 was slightly above avg and for the first time in his life, he felt he was on the right track.

And, except for his studies, he threw all his eggs into the baseball basket. There was no other sport. He felt he was too small for the other big sports, football and basketball. Even if he was tall and strong enough for football, he didn't think he would enjoy all the hitting. And he had a shot at being taller, his older brother is 6'2. He also has a half-sister, his parents were divorced when he was 1-2 years old. He was raised by his Mom but his Dad, an Army man who was in the special forces and served in Somalia, the Persian Gulf and Panama, remained in New Castle and took an active part in his upbringing. His Mom, who he remained with, is a secretary.

Matt held onto his dreams and after his first year of professional baseball, combined with his breakout year this season, he has leapt into the prospect picture. If he can continue to produce and make it to the Yankee Stadium mound, there may be a whole lot more Yankees' fans in New Castle, PA.

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