Last Sunday I was able to take in one of Tim Melville’s starts against the Potomac Nationals at the local Pfitzner Stadium. Melville’s obviously a big name and one of the top arms in Kansas City’s farm system so I made it a point to see him after returning home from a challenging set of final exams to wrap up the semester.
The Royals popped Melville in the fourth round of the 2008 draft after he fell considerably down the board due to signability concerns and a lackluster senior season at Holt High School. Rumor has it that his family sent out a letter to scouts before the draft instructing them what type of dollar amount it would take for Melville to sign. Teams appeared to scurry and it looked more and more likely that Melville would end up becoming a Tar Heel.
He almost did but the Royals ponied up and signed him to a well-above slot $1.25 million deal right before the signing deadline. Melville received the biggest bonus in the fourth round that year.
The Royals limited Melville to 100 innings during his first professional season in 2009 at low Class A Burlington. He made 21 starts and only averaged 4.2 innings per start. Melville’s ERA matched up well with his peripherals last year as he had a 3.98 FIP and struck out nearly a batter per inning. He didn’t display pin point precision as evidenced by his walk rate which hovered around 4.
Through seven starts before Sunday’s outing the 20-year-old’s ERA stood out like a sore thumb at 9.76. I have been following Melville’s box scores all season long and that number just hasn’t looked right. He still displayed a solid set of peripherals and was striking people out and not allowing an inordinate amount of home runs. But his control continued to be a problem for him and has plagued him through his first tour of the Carolina League. I came to the ballpark expecting to see Melville somehow lower that ugly ERA.
Melville came out of the gates firing. He caught the P-Nats lead off hitter, Steve Lombardozzi, looking and organizational solider, Brian Peacock, went down hacking. The Blue Rocks were on the road but Melville had a bunch of friends and family in the stands today. Their chants almost reminded me of being at a high school baseball game.
Melville and the Royals dodged a huge bullet in the second inning when third baseman, Tim Pahuta (AKA “The Big Pahuta” which has got to be one of the best nicknames in the minors), hit a rocket right back at Melville. Melville didn’t even try to make a play on the line drive and tried getting out of the way as quick as possible by dropping to the ground. He made it to the ground unscathed by mere instants which was a big sigh of relief. Especially for Melville’s collective friends and family behind the Wilmington dugout.
Melville has a great pitchers frame at 6-foot-5 and 210-pounds. The right hander has a great pitchers body that is likely closed to being maxed out and he easily passed the eye test for me. During his windup he brings his glove over his head and fires straight over the chute and easily creates downhill plane. He has clean mechanics and creates good balance in his delivery. Melville also repeats his delivery very well.
In the early innings Melville exhibited a plus fastball that sat in the 90-92 range with good life. I saw him spike 93 a few times as the game progressed. At times Melville’s command of his fastball escaped him and caused him to prolong opposing hitters at-bats. He walked two during his outing.
Melville also utilizes a nifty 12-6 curveball with good break that is definitely a plus pitch for me. I only saw him fail to get on top of it and hang the pitch a few times during the game and he used it quite often. It’s definitely his best secondary pitch and he isn’t afraid to pitch backwards to hitters and throw it for strike one.
Melville also has a big spread on his curveball. He threw the pitch ranging from 70-78 mph during the game and that isn’t a typo. His ability to take off or add a little velocity to his curveball was very impressive especially for a 20-year-old in his second professional season removed from high school.
Melville didn’t flash a third pitch very often during this outing. The progress of his changeup will be a big part of his development going forward. I see the big key to success for Melville being the command of his fastball. It can be a plus pitch but when his command goes his pitch count increases and he starts walking people. This likely attributes to his poor 5.43 walk rate this season.
Melville holds runners very well when they reach base. But he might be trying to hold them too well and shouldn’t let them become too big of a distraction and focus primarily on going after the hitter at the plate.
For the first time this season, Melville, almost completed six full innings. He was pulled after allowing a run and recording two outs in the sixth inning. Potomac only mustered four hits against Melville and scored two runs off of the right hander. Melville walked two and struck out five.
After the game Melville’s ERA fell to 8.64. His stronger set of peripherals (8.7 K/9, 5.43 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9) to date signify that his ERA obviously doesn’t tell the entire story (heck, when does ERA tell the entire story?) and the high A club’s defense isn’t doing him any favors either. Melville has a .373 BABIP this season.
Overall, I was very impressed with Melville. His sturdy frame and two plus pitches will bode well for him. There’s a variety of things to like about Melville. The command of his fastball and development of his changeup will be a big part of his development and route to the majors. He could take a big jump soon up prospect lists when/if those two aspects of his game improve. He’s only 20 and there’s an ample amount of time for him to figure those things out.
Don’t let Melville’s poor minor league numbers thus far this season fool you. He’s a legit arm and his perfect world projection is that of a number two starter if everything pans out exceptionally well. Since it’s unfair to expect prospects to erase all of their weaknesses I would say Melville most likely has the ceiling of a number three starter that chews up innings due to his durable frame. His numbers should improve as he advances up the minor league ladder and pitches in front of better defenses. I’d give him 2-3 years to work his way through the minors with an ETA of late 2012/2013. I’m expecting him to become a valuable commodity in keeper leagues and if you have the chance to get him cheaply you should act now while his numbers look disappointing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Melville finds himself on a few top 100 prospect lists after this season. He only made one of the four (BA, Keith Law, FanGraphs, BP’s top 101) lists. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus had him at #93 on his top 101.
*1B Eric Hosmer-That lasik eye surgery really has done wonders.. While he went hitless in the game that I saw there were still good things to like. He has a good, athletic body. Hosmer has an imposing presence at the plate with a stance that’s slightly open. P-Nats starter, Brad Peacock, fed him a steady diet of fastballs away (he also got him to whiff against a solid breaking pitch) and Hosmer still put some good swings on them. He drilled a liner back into the catchers mask and just got under another that resulted in a pop that was in the air for nearly seven seconds…just another reminder that Hosmer’s raw power is still there despite only two homers on the year.
*C Derek Norris- Norris is a little short and stocky but the bat is impressive. He tracks pitches well and showed the ability to hit the ball to all fields. He singled off Melville in his first plate appearance. Norris DH’ed on Sunday but I saw him catch earlier in the week. It wasn’t pretty. His hands and receiving skills still need a bunch of work. Too many balls scooted by him to the backstop. He isn’t as bad as Jesus Montero back there but where do the Nats put him if he can’t stick behind the plate? Unfortunately, he can’t DH in Washington and a return to the hot corner where he played in high school doesn’t seem probable with franchise icon, Ryan Zimmerman, doing everything right at third.
*RHP Brad Peacock- Peacock opposed Melville on Sunday and some sloppy defense and cheap hits did him in during the 5th inning. He pitched much better than the box score indicated (4.2IP 5R 3BB 6K). Peacock has a simple, repeatable delivery. His fastball sits in the low 90′s and it’s an average to above-average pitch. He displayed fringy breaking stuff today. He could sniff the big leagues as a back of the rotation starter or swing man.
*OF Michael Burgess- He has big plus power and a nice plus arm in right field…but I’m just not a big believer here. He doesn’t move too well at all and he’s got a long swing. His pitch recognition needs work and Melville made him look silly in a four pitch at-bat. Melville fed him three breaking balls that Burgess swung and missed at each time. It didn’t look pretty. He’ll hit some baseballs a long way but I see his swing as an all or nothing proposition. If he doesn’t figure it out quick I could see him flaming out quickly. His best bet might be to try making it to the big leagues as a home run threat off the bench.
*C Salvador Perez- Perez is an advanced defender and he’s a good receiver. He’s 1.95 down to second base and I had him at 1.38 to third base on steal attempts. He’s a good, defensive minded catcher and organizations can always use those. He may become a back up catcher in the big leagues some day.
*OF Jamar Walton- He looks pretty good in a baseball uniform at 6-foot-4 and 195-pounds. The athletic body stands out but unfortunately for Walton…not much else tools wise does either…
*3B Tim Pahuta- He may not be much of a prospect and more like organizational fodder. But he does have two things going that really stand out about him. The Seton Hall product is 27-years-old and in high A ball! That’s awfully old and you’ve got to give the guy credit…he sure does have a plus name.
I also have some more bittersweet news for you. I recently accepted an internship with a baseball team and this will be my last post for RotoGraphs. While I will miss the scene here I am very excited about my new position. I’ve always aspired to work for a team and this is another step in the right direction. I’ve had a great time writing here and sharing my analysis and opinions with all of you. It’s been a great experience for me and also a fantastic learning tool. The feedback has been great too.
I apologize for the sporadic posts over the past few months. If I had it my way I would have written much more over the past couple months but unfortunately academics kind of ran into the way. RotoGraphs has really picked up this season and I’m sorry to just be leaving the party now. I’m confident that the rest of the staff will do a great job. This is a great website for baseball analysis and it always seems to be getting better and better.
I would like to thank Marc Hulet and David Appelman for extending me this fantastic opportunity last November. David G, my fellow Duquesne Duke, was also instrumental in getting me over here to write. Much thanks to them and the rest of the RotoGraphs and FanGraphs staff for everything during my stay here.
Feel free to stay in touch via email or Twitter @danbudreika where you can find me talking about baseball, quotes, or life in general. Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy the remainder of the season. Be well!