Once seen as being on the fast track to playing a big part in the Angels bullpen, Nick Maronde took a big step backwards in 2013 instead. Can he get himself back on track?
Position: LHP Highest Level: Majors
Bats: B Throws: L Height: 6'3" Weight: 206
Age: 24 Born: 9/5/1989
2013 Rank: #2
2013 Season Stats
Double-A: 56.1 IP, 2-4, 0 SV, 3.51 ERA, 41 H, 37 BB, 4 HR, 63 SO, 3.96 FIP, .266 BABIP, 42.0 GB%
Majors: 5.1 IP, 0-0, 0 SV, 6.75 ERA, 4 H, 8 BB, 1 HR, 5 SO, 8.11 FIP, .214 BABIP, 46.7 GB%
Fastball = B
Part of the reason Nick Maronde ranked so high last year was that as a left-handed starter, we saw him pound his fastball into the mitt at 92-93 on a continual basis. Not only is this slightly above average velocity for a starter in general, it’s a good 3-4 mph harder than most LHP. This past season however, he transitioned to reliever and due to arm troubles and mechanical adjustments we saw his fastball dip down into the high 80’s which was a big red flag. By the end of the season however he was back to 90-92. It still isn’t as hard as he was throwing before, but it is sign for optimism. As a reliever, we’d hope he’d throw even harder but Maronde seems to be able to get by without a mid 90’s fastball.
Offspeed Pitches = C+
Maronde throws a tight slider that is effective at any level and grades out as “plus”, but it would appear since he made the decision to pitch in relief, he’s abandoned the changeup, which isn’t such a bad thing as it needed a lot of work before.
Control = D
Another reason for Maronde’s diminished value as a prospect is the sudden inability to put the ball over the plate. In his first two seasons as a pro when he was pitching out of the rotation, Maronde’s BB/9 sat at a sparkling 2.4. Last season, his first full season as a reliever we saw that number creep all the way up to 5.9. Clearly, some adjustments are needed, or perhaps he needs to go back to pitching as a starter. Since we’ve seen him be so strong in this area before, I hold out hope that his control will again return.
Command = C
With the lost ability to throw strikes came the lost ability to spot his pitches wherever they needed to be. It’s honestly as though we were watching two completely different pitchers between 2012 and 2013.
Mechanics = C
I never liked Maronde’s mechanics in the first place. The stiff throwing arm and motion seem to take stress off the shoulder and elbow and yet at the same time I think it prevents him from reaching his full capacity as a pitcher. But his pre-release motion still seems like the simple drop & drive variety.
Performance = C-
To be quite honest, I expected a lot more from Maronde in 2014 and he really took a couple of steps in the wrong direction. I truly thought his calling was as a starter, and believed that despite not having the necessary change up, he’d be able to get by with such impeccable command and a dynamic fastball-slider combo. But as we saw, he transitioned to relief, lost velocity on his fastball and lost all resemblance of the command and control we saw in 2012. On the bright side, a 3.51 ERA in AA isn’t a completely terrible thing.
Projection = C
If Maronde were still a starter or still had the 92-93 mph fastball with command and control, this would be considerably higher but as of right now, he doesn’t have it. If he ever regains it, he could become a very effective 8th inning option or hopefully give starting another shot after all the success he had in that role. If he doesn’t, the best he could profile would be as a lefty-specialist. The most important thing for Maronde here is the ability to command his pitches. When he pounds the zone, he can be very good.
Grade as a Prospect = C+
Based on his past success and the fact that he used to throw strikes with a good fastball and slider and is young, you have to give him the edge over most prospects. But there is no other way around it, he’ll need to redicover his velocity and command if he wants to remain a Top 30 prospect.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2015
If you had asked me a year ago, I would’ve said a year at the most. But now, I think he’ll need a full year in the minors to prove his issues are behind him before he joins the Angels on a full-time basis.
2013 in Review*
After the 2012 season, Nick Maronde was something of a controversial prospect. After an electric September call-up period, Maronde flashed an ability to be potential high leverage reliever, but he was still nominally a starting pitcher. The Angels were desperate for starting pitching in the system, but Maronde still needed a lot of work to become a legit rotation candidate. Alternatively, his brief period of success suggested that he could be a big piece in the bullpen in 2013, possibly as soon as Opening Day. Jerry Dipoto and the organization opted to try and reap the immediate reward and made Maronde's transition into a reliever complete. Now all they had to do is wait for it to pay off.
Well, they are still waiting because Maronde flopped in a big way in 2013. In his two previous minor league seasons, Maronde showed very good command. It was considered one of his major selling points as a major league ready prospect. But due to some mechanical changes and arm issues, Maronde could barely get the ball over the plate at times during the season. Oh, and he lost velocity too. That's a good combination, right?
Nick was able to get away with a lot in Double-A because his stuff is so good as he still managed to whiff more than a batter per inning and allow just 41 hits in 56.1 innings of work. However, he walked 37 batters in that time. By comparison, Maronde walked a total of 37 batters in his two previous minor league seasons, spanning 146 innings. So, yeah, that is kind of a problem.
Despite these issues, he still managed to get two brief call-ups to the majors. Both were made out of desperation on the part of the Angels and both call-ups were pretty disastrous. In total, Maronde walked eight of the 28 batters he faced. Five of those walks came against lefties, so Maronde couldn't even serve effectively as a LOOGY. By the time he was sent back down in August, it was clear he wouldn't be back in September as one could tell just by looking at him that his confidence had been shattered.
If there is any good news that came from Maronde's disappointing season it was his platoon splits. Maronde was death on lefties, the biggest part of his job, by limiting them to a .558 OPS and surrendering just two extra-base hits to left-handed hitters in Double-A. Against right-handed batters though, he was almost as good, allowing a .681 OPS against and just a .131 ISO. In other words, if he could avoid walking people, nobody was going too much damage against him with the bat, regardless of what side of the plate they hit from. That bodes very well Maronde's future as a legitimate setup man or even closer and not just a lefty specialist reliever.
Before that can happen though, Mardone needs to get healthy, work out his mechanical issues and start throwing strikes again. There is hope on this front already as Maronde only walked five batters in his final 22.1 innings at Arkansas. Add to that reports of him recovering his velocity down the stretch and it would seem that Maronde is primed for a bounceback in 2014.
Given how rough his 2013 stints in the majors were, Maronde is unlikely to break camp with the Angels, though he will at least get a chance. More likely, he will have to spend a few months in the minors proving that he has worked out his issues and then wait for an opening in the big leagues due to injury or ineffectiveness. That wait will most likely be done in the Salt Lake Bees bullpen, but it is certainly possible that he could start the season in Arkansas if he shows in training camp that he still has mechanical issues that need work. Salt Lake can be brutal on a pitcher's confidence and Maronde's confidence is still going through a rebuilding phase after the events of last season.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.