Scouting Report: Joey Maher

Maher has some real upside

The New York Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Joey Maher in the 38th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Bedford High School in New Hampshire. He finished his debut season this year with the highest ERA among starters on the GCL Yankees squad, but the numbers are very misleading. It's because of that and his late-round selection that makes him one of the best 'sleeper' prospects around.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Joey Maher
Position: Pitcher
DOB: August 5, 1992
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I had a really good year for me," he said. "I was having a pretty decent year, nothing to brag about but a good year, but then one inning later I had the highest ERA on the team. I was so ****** pissed.

"Other than being sidelined there for about a month or so -- that was a bit of a setback -- I was happy to end the year strong in Instructs. Ending the year on a strong note was really important for me.

"I set some goals for myself earlier in the year and I'm really glad it all turned out the way that it did. I made a lot of progress this year."

Maher finished his debut season going 0-3 with a rather high 5.63 ERA but the total stats don't exactly tell the whole story. Pitching through some shoulder tendonitis, he had sported a solid 3.74 ERA entering what would be his final start of the year and surrendered five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Beyond the numbers though it was a very good year development-wise for the 6-foot-5 hurler, one that saw a noticeable uptick in pitch-ability and stuff.

"They were personal goals when it came to my own development. I was hoping to sustain my velocity.

"It was a long year for me so I was hoping I could stay strong throughout the whole year but the whole tendonitis thing came along. But I was still happy my velocity stayed above 90 mph all year. I saw some guys dipping down [below that].

"I also learned a lot about the game and learn how to use my pitches. Another goal of mine was to develop my curveball a lot more, be able to throw it with more confidence.

"I changed my grip at Instructs and I'm really glad that I did. It's a lot better, a lot more consistent, harder break. That was really a good thing to leave on for the season and into the offseason."

Known for the excellent sink on his fastball and a changeup that flashes plus potential on any given day, Maher never really could get the curveball into a consistent weapon until David Aardsma showed him some things during his rehab from the shoulder tendonitis.

"I started spiking it like a knuckle-curve," Maher said. "That helped me a lot getting around the ball, kind of get my finger out of the way and relying on that middle finger more. I didn't realize it was so simple to change the grip and play around with it a little bit and make such a drastic difference."

It did make a huge difference. Once an inconsistent pitch that would range anywhere from 72-75 mph with a loopy break, it became a much harder and tighter breaking ball by season's end.

"As long as I have the confidence in it that I had at Instructs, I think that's going to be huge for me," he added. "That's the out-pitch that I've been waiting for."

With his changeup in place and now seemingly have the strikeout breaking ball he had been seeking, the fact is Maher's game is still very much predicated on his great sinking fastball.

"I love that pitch," he admitted. "I'm really glad that they let me keep it. Usually with the high school guys you get down to rookie ball and they take your two-seam away right off of the bat.

"They liked my sinker enough that they decided that was going to be my bread and butter pitch. I'm glad they let me keep it. I broke some bats and got a lot of ground balls. I really utilize it, it's an advantage."

He is now armed with three big league pitches, something he did not have when his inaugural season began. Throw in the fact that at 6-foot-5 and with plenty of room to fill out, there's also the possibility that he could throw even harder as he matures and that gives him intriguing upside.

"I wasn't too concerned with velocities this year. I was just trying to get better and get guys out, but at the same time I know it's in me.

"I have to keep working, keep building up my arm strength, my entire body, and utilize my entire body. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to place it too much and trying to aim too much, and I don't rear back and use my entire body. I think I can still play around with my mechanics.

"I still have a lot to learn and plenty of things that I can change and improve upon when it comes to my delivery. It's a work in progress but I feel I still have a few more miles per hour left in me," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

GCL Yankees

0-3

0

22.1

28

8

17

5.64



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. What Maher lacks in plus velocity he more than makes up for with plus movement. He throws both a sinking two-seam fastball and a four-seam fastball. The two-seamer ranges mostly from 89-91 mph and because it gets so much movement he does have some inconsistencies locating it. His four-seamer is a bit harder, more in the 90-92 mph range and can top out at 94 mph, and it too gets a lot of natural sink to it. He is a bit more consistent locating the four-seamer right now.

Other Pitches. Maher's main offspeed staple has been his changeup, a pitch that can flash plus potential on any given day. Just like his fastball, his changeup sinks and fades into right-handers and away from left-handers, and it is the mirror image of his fastball delivery-wise most days. Perhaps the best development and certainly the most recent one has been the transformation of a below average loopy curveball into a tight above average knuckle-curveball that sits 77-79 mph and touches 80 mph, and also gets a lot of movement. It's such a new pitch that it may take some time to get the consistent command of it, but the early returns have been very favorable.

Pitching. The foundation of Maher's game is to go right after batters to try and induce harmless contact with his sinker and changeup, and allow his defense to work behind him. He just recently added a viable strikeout weapon to his arsenal and that should allow him to not be too fine locating his contact pitches, an aspect of his game that has caused some problems from time to time. He also has made marked improvements holding runners and speeding up his delivery out of the stretch, but he could still be better in that area. What brings his game together is his makeup -- he's the kind of guy that always wants to be working on something to improve his game.

Projection. Maher's game is kind of a hybrid between former Yankee pitching prospects Zach McAllister and D.J. Mitchell, both of whom have reached the big leagues. He has the taller frame and advanced changeup of McAllister at a similar age, but the better sink and higher upside with the breaking ball of Mitchell. And like both of them, Maher will be more effective at the higher levels once the defenses behind him are more polished. There is one big difference though between the three though -- Maher has the fluidity of Mitchell's motion and a bit more room to fill out than both, giving him a bit more potential to develop his fastball into the above average and perhaps even plus velocity range should things break right. His ceiling right now is a big league middle of the rotation starter but that could creep up a spot if the new curveball remains consistent and if Maher begins to throw harder at some point.

ETA. N/A. Mostly likely destined for the short-season leagues again in 2013 barring an all-world performance in Spring Training, perhaps most likely slated for Staten Island, it's a bit too early to give a big league arrival time here. The upside is big but it could take some time to come together.

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