The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with the top pitcher in the Angels system facing the critical fork in the road of developing into a starter or contributing right now as a reliever.
Position: Pitcher Highest Level: MLB
Throws: Left Height: 6'3" Weight: 205 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: 9/5/89
2012 Season Stats
AZL: 8.0 IP, 0-1, 1.13 ERA, 3 H, 0 BB, 2 HR, 9 SO, 0.89 GO/AO, 2.08 FIP, .150 BABIP
High-A: 59.1 IP, 3-1, 1.82 ERA, 40 H, 14 BB, 4 HR, 60 SO, 0.68 GO/AO, 2.76 FIP, .240 BABIP
Double-A: 32.1 IP, 3-2, 3.34 ERA, 39 H, 3 BB, 1 HR, 21 SO, 0.65 GO/AO, 2.67 FIP, .349 BABIP
MLB: 6.0 IP, 0-0, 1.50 ERA, 6 H, 3 BB, 0 HR, 7 SO, 0.88 GO/AO, 2.26 FIP, .353 BABIP
Fastball – A. The reason this grades out as an A is because he’s left handed. His fastball sits at 92-93, which is pretty decent for a righty but is approaching rocket status for a lefty (average LHP fastball is 89 mph). He also has a sinking 2-seamer I’ve seen him rely on increasingly, which sits around 91-92.
Off-speed Pitches – B. Maronde features a “plus” slider with a tight spin, good cut/drop and he throws it for a strike. His change up however, actually seemed a bit worse than I saw in Rookie Ball (could’ve been the competition). The arm slot stays the same, but his arm speed changes and he doesn’t seem to finish his delivery either. Admittedly, there is movement to it, so there has to be some hope. Personally, I think he can still emerge as a successful starter without it.
Control – A. At every level he’s seen, Maronde has flashed exactly what the Angels saw when they drafted him. He attacks the zone. He’s aggressive and doesn’t bother making hitters chase off the plate. He puts the ball over the plate and challenges hitters to do something with it, which so far, none have consistently.
Command – A. This is what truly makes Maronde a special pitcher. He puts the ball right where he wants it. He’s done it in the major leagues and minor leagues. Maronde is most effective when he’s sitting low in the zone and spots his slider at the knees on the corners. I haven’t seen his command fail him yet.
Mechanics – C. Not easy to grade. Are they easy and repeatable? Yes. Simple drop and drive, creates good weight distribution throughout the delivery. Does he throw strikes? Yes. That’s all that should matter right? But personally, I see his mechanics and think his arm lags behind the rest of his body too much and he throws across his body more than I’d prefer. Not pretty mechanics but no glaring flaws that suggest future injury.
Performance – A. Made it to the major leagues a year after being drafted. Not bad I’d say. Even more, he performed well in the major leagues.
Projection – B. To me, he projects into a middle of the rotation starter. He reminds me a lot of a younger Scott Kazmir, but with less clean mechanics. Their fastballs are similar, sliders are both strikeout pitches that cut across the zone with drop, both have had struggles with the change up. Kazmir put it all together and then some when he turned into an ace for the Rays. There’s no guarantee Maronde will, in which case he could still be a solid #3/4 starter. As a reliever, I see Maronde in either the 8th or 9th inning. He’s aggressive and challenges hitters in even the most tense situations.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date – As a reliever, right now. As a starter, a year from now in 2014.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: Maronde is far and away the best pitching prospect the Angels have, which is great for Nick, but not so great for the Halos since it isn't clear that Maronde can cut it as a starter. What really boosted Maronde's stock this year is that he rocketed through the system all the way to the big league club for a September call-up where he put together six impressive innings of relief work. It wasn't all rosy for Maronde though as he battled through injuries throughout the season, his first full season in the minors, and ended up logging 105.2 innings across all levels in 2012.
What makes him more difficult to track is that he jumped through levels so quickly that is is impossible to establish a baseline on him statistically. He is basicall a walking small sample size at this point. Even with that caveat, it is pretty clear that Maronde is absolute death on left-handed hitters as he allowed a microscopic .429 OPS to left-handed batters during his time in the minors last season. There is a reason he was able to jump to the majors and succeed as a LOOGY, after all. However, righties had more success against him, but mostly at Double-A, though that was just 59.2 innings worth of work. It makes sense though that he'd have a harder time though given the immaturity of his changeup and general experience pitching as a professional.
What to Expect in 2013: Going into the off-season, the Angels faced a tough choice of deciding whether or not to keep Maronde on the big league roster as a second lefty in the bullpen or returning him to the minors to continue developing as a starter. They made that an easy decision when they signed Sean Burnett, thus negating the need to keep Maronde in the majors. I was split on this for awhile, but after burning through this prospect list, it was pretty clear that the Angels have so little in the way of starting pitching prospects near the majors that they'd be stupid to not try and see if Nick can't develop into a real rotation candidate.
It will be interesting to see if the Angels choose to have Maronde continue his development at Salt Lake or at Arkansas. As a reliever, he is ready to graduate from Double-A, but it isn't clear that he is ready as a starter. Besides, if the focus of his development is to work on his changeup, he might be better served starting that process in Arkansas so that his confidence doesn't get battered if the changeup experiment doesn't start well in the high altitude of Salt Lake.
While everyone is excited about Maronde, it is important to temper that enthusiasm for this year. He still has a lot of work to do as a starter, including just proving that he can survive the rotation for a full season, so don't start getting any illusions in your head of him joining the Halo rotation this year save for maybe some garbage time work in September. He isn't that far off from the majors, but he isn't close either.