River Ave Blues with a piece/profile on the much-anticipated debut of 2006 draft pick Mark Melancon.
Some choice excerpts:
Melancon was born in Wheat Ridge, CO and grew up in nearby Golden, just outside of Denver. He attended Golden High School, where he lettered all four years in baseball and basketball and three times in football. He helped capture the National Championship in baseball, winning the clinching game after doubling off Ian Kennedy earlier in the double elimination tournament. Melancon was named to the All-State Team twice in his career (as well as twice in football and once in basketball) and graduated as a member of the National Honors Society.
Despite being rated the third best prospect in the state by Baseball America, Melancon was not a major prospect for the 2003 Draft. The Dodgers grabbed him the 30th round, adding him to a haul that included Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Russ Martin and Andy LaRoche. Melancon didn’t sign, instead following through on his commitment to The University of Arizona.
Melancon established himself as a strong contributor out of the bullpen as a true freshman, allowing just 55 hits and 19 walks against 46 strikeouts in 62.1 IP. He set a single season freshman record by making twenty-nine appearances, and followed that up by going 2-0 with two saves in five postseason appearances as Arizona returned to the College World Series for the first time since 1986. The Wildcats went 1-2 in the CWS, losing twice to Georgia in the double elimination tournament. While pitching for the USA National Team over the summer Melancon made ten appearances and led the club with five saves. He allowed just seven baserunners (all hits) and zero runs in 12.2 IP.
Melancon was considered a borderline first round talent prior to his junior season, when Baseball America rated him the top prospect in the state, the 14th best college prospect, and the 35th best draft prospect overall. His injury killed his stock because teams feared he would need Tommy John surgery. Melancon ultimately fell to the ninth round, when the Yanks grabbed him with the 284th overall pick. The Yankees were satisfied with condition of his elbow following an MRI, and signed him to a well-above slot $600,000 bonus, the equivalent of mid-second round money. He was assigned to Short Season Staten Island after a brief tune-up at homebase in Tampa.
Melancon got into seven regular season games with the Baby Bombers after signing, then picked up the save in both of Staten Island’s wins in the NY-Penn League Finals, recording four outs without incident (two strikeouts) to clinch the title in the deciding Game Three. The Yankees sent Melancon to the reborn Hawaii Winter Baseball league after the season for extra work, however he had to be shut down after just four appearances because of elbow soreness. Melancon underwent Tommy John surgery in November 2006 and missed the entire 2007 regular season.
Melancon regained his pre-TJ stuff by the end of 2008, sitting 92-94 and touching 96 with good life on his fastball. His out pitch is a hard 12-to-6 curveball that he can drop in for strike one or use to get chases for strike three. He toyed with a splitter in college, however the Yanks had him scrap in favor of a true changeup that is now a usable third pitch. Melancon commands his two main pitches extremely well, and he often threw ten or fewer pitches per inning last season, leading to so many multiple inning outings.
The biggest drawback for Melancon is his delivery. He’s a max effort guy that comes straight over the top, although the Yanks have been working to clean it up his motion since he signed. It does benefit him slightly however, because it adds deception and creates a steep downhill plane for his pitches. Until he smooths it out, he’ll always be an injury risk. Now twenty-six months out of surgery, Melancon is officially clear of the procedure. Perhaps his best tool is his work ethic and makeup, which is off the charts and has been lauded since high school.