While Matt Maloney hasn't gotten a lot of press this season, it's not because he's struggling or underachieving. The 23 year old left-hander is doing pretty much what the Phillies expected he would do as a member of the Reading Phillies' starting rotation. By no means is he a forgotten prospect, even though he hasn't been mentioned much as a potential band-aid for the big league clubs starting woes.
Maloney, who skipped over Clearwater to move to Double-A this season, is already on a fast track even though by some accounts, that track has slowed a bit as of late. The Phillies felt confident in having Maloney make a double jump, but also then figured that he would spend the vast majority of the season with Reading and not advance until very late in the season, if at all. That's the key reason why his name hasn't come up in many discussions about potential help from the Minor League system to fill vacancies in Philadelphia.
If there is anything that the Phillies would like to see Maloney correct, it's minor issues with his control. In 93.1 innings this season, he's walked 38 hitters or an average of 3.7 per nine innings. While that number isn't staggering, it's not where the Phillies believe Maloney will eventually be and to them, it's an indicator that he's not quite prepared to pitch at a higher level. "He's moving in a good direction," assistant GM Mike Arbuckle said. "But from a command standpoint, I can't say he'd be a guy who can really come up." Last season at Lakewood, Maloney had a slightly higher walks per nine innings rate (3.9) and had a 3.8 average coming into the season, so Arbuckle is right that he's moving in the right direction, but the Phillies want to see a little more progress from him before they move him along, especially considering the jump that he already made to get to Reading. A look at Maloney's stats shows that his control issues have gotten better. In the first month of the season, Maloney walked 5.1 hitters per nine innings and lowered that to 2.9 in May. With Maloney putting up his best numbers of the season so far this month, he has issued 3.3 walks per nine innings of work.
Another number that is somewhat daunting is the number 10. That's how many home runs he's allowed at Reading this season in 93.1 innings of work after he allowed just 7 in 205.2 innings of work during his previous two seasons. Quite simply, Double-A hitters have been able to figure out his secondary pitches. A closer look at the numbers though shows that there needs to be an asterisk by that number. For instance, half of his home runs were delivered in his not so merry month of May, inflating the number slightly. Keep in mind too, that 7 of those homeruns came in his first 8 starts when Maloney was adjusting to pitching at the higher level. He's also given up 8 of his 10 home runs at home and that's a number that is echoed throughout the Reading staff thanks to the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium. The R-Phils staff has given up 0.3 homeruns per nine innings on the road and 0.9 home runs per nine innings at home this season.
If you browse the top of the league leaders list for the 2006 South Atlantic League season, you'll see Maloney's name dotted frequently at the top of the leader lists. He led the SAL in Wins (16), Strikeouts (180), Innings Pitched (168.2), ERA (2.03) and Complete Games (2). This season, Maloney isn't among the league leaders in those categories for the Eastern League, but he's pitching well enough to keep the Phillies happy with his progress. Still, he's technically going to be well behind pitchers like J.A. Happ, Zack Segovia and possibly even new teammate Carlos Carrasco, who was recently moved to Reading after an impressive stretch in the Florida State League. That depth chart should be of no concern to Maloney, who is ahead of schedule in his development.