Prospect Park: Joey Maher

Joey Maher2The Basics:

Name: Joey Maher
Position: SP
Handedness: Right handed
Age: 21
Draft: 2011, 38th round out of New Hampshire
Size: 6-foot-5, 200-pounds
Best Tool: Sinker
BBDP Rank: 38

When you draft a player in the 38th round there are not much in the way of expectations for that player. In the end, you’re pretty happy if they become organizational filler that stays in the system for four or five years. There’s not much in the way of high upside talent at this point in the draft. Joey Maher was drafted out of high school as a long shot to become something more than organizational filler. Not only has Joey Maher done just that, but he has actually become a legitimate prospect in the system and a guy to really keep an eye on in the coming years as his body matures.

Maher comes from a cold weather upbringing in the Northeast. He’s the type of player that screamed long term project when he was drafted. In stead he has come along a lot quicker than expected and could begin to make some real noise in this system as soon as next season. The scouting report on Maher when he was drafted was that he was a 5th starter at best. He had an upper 80’s sinking fastball and a breaking ball which was a work in progress. At his size though, there was always a chance he could add strength and power, and he has.

In his first season in the minors, Maher’s numbers look pretty bad. He had a 5.64 ERA in 22.1 IP with 17 K and an 0-3 record. I hope it’s obvious to all who read this blog by now though that 22.1 IP is nothing but a small sample size. Moreover, most of the runs came in a single two inning outing where he got shelled while suffering from shoulder tendonitis in his first season. This is an extremely common issue in the rookie leagues.

In 2013 he came around with a season that you would expect from a proficient sinker-baller. He pitched 58.0 innings, struck out 29, an had a 3.10 ERA while generating a ton of ground balls. His stats were negatively skewed by one start he made for High-A Tampa where he let up eight runs in 1.1 innings. Without that outing his ERA was 1.91 on the season. The success was great, however the one thing that jumps out is the low strikeout rate. Even as a successful sinker-baller, he is going to have to start figuring out how to get some more strikeouts as he moves up the latter. Overall it was a successful season for Maher though, as he continued to work on his curve and changeup while continuing to have success with his four-seamer and a two-seamer.

The Stuff:

Maher is not a guy who’s stuff is going to jump out at you, but he is a different kind of pitcher than any of the flamethrowers you hear about. His ceiling may not be as high as some, but he has the potential to be a valuable player in his own right down the line. He projects as a guy who should be able to eat up innings in the future, and you will see why.

Maher’s current success begins and ends with his sinker. He has other pitches but none are yet at a point where they would grade out as plus, although his curve and changeup are coming along rapidly. His sinker lives in the low 90’s and tops out at 92. His four seam fastball is a tick or two faster in the 92-93 range with the occasional 94. The sinker has a ton of movement and is a definite plus pitch for him right now.

He also throws a curve and a changeup. The curve is a true work in progress. He was able to use it successfully this year but control has been the main issue. He has plenty of time to tackle that problem though. As a tireless worker control should not be an issue for him long term. The changeup is already an above average pitch and generates soft contact regularly. If he can develop either of these pitches into a plus offering, he will be tough to hit. Better yet, if the curve becomes a strike out pitch, we are talking about a legitimate third starter candidate here.

In terms of pitch-ability, Maher is the type to attack hitters, and will need to continue to do that going forward to be successful. He is well aware of that and control is always his number one priority. In addition, at his size he still has the potential to add one or two more ticks onto his fastball. If that were to happen, we’re talking about a guy who could be a major factor in the system.

Ceiling/Floor:

With his current velocity and some improvement in the secondary stuff, his ceiling is currently that of a third starter. As is always the case with young pitchers, there is always the potential for an uptick in velocity. This is especially true of players with the type of size that Maher has. With an uptick in stuff his ceiling would obviously rise.

The floor is still pretty low at this point. His current stuff should allow him to ascend at least to Double-A. From there he will have to improve his secondary offerings and pitch-ability to make it to the show. If not, he could be a bust.

The likelihood that he reaches his ceiling is low after repeating the GCL this year. That said, he is poised for a breakout season in 2014. Much like Jordan Cote, this is the year the Yankees should start to see a return on their long term investment.

2014 Outlook:

He will likely start out in Staten Island, but when promotions occur he could easily spend a fair amount of time in Charleston before the season is over. More than likely I would predict the Yankees will take it slow with him and give him one more extended Spring Training to hone his craft and really hammer down that curve ball.

If he continues to improve, his likely arrival time to the major leagues would be either 2017 or 2018.

Overall Joey Maher is still a wait and see proposition. At this point, however, he has a lot more now talent to build on and could work his way into the Charleston rotation if things go really well for him in 2014.

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