A scout who saw him recently labeled Melancon as the Yankees’ top bullpen arm in the minors.
“Out of the ‘pen, he’s at the top of the list,” the scout said.
The scout was equally impressed with the fact that Melancon’s velocity was back at pre-surgery levels, with a plus fastball sitting between 92-94 mph, and a plus 12-to-6 power curveball that ran between 81 and 84.
“Just a year [after the surgery], to have everything back with his kind of stuff . . . that’s exceptional,” the scout said. “A kid can’t come back the way he did without working hard.”
With two plus power pitches, Melancon, 23, fits the textbook definition of a closer, and the scout believes he eventually could succeed Mariano Rivera in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen.
“With those two pitches, I would say [yes],” the scout said. “You’re talking a power fastball and breaking pitch, and he comes right at you. He throws strikes. He’s not the closer who is going to come in and walk the house across.”
One AL and one NL scout who saw Melancon in college liked his arm, and both agreed with the other scout’s assessment that he could eventually follow in Rivera’s footsteps as the Yankees’ closer.
“Mark’s a guy who I think a lot of the area scouts really liked because he was a competitor,” the NL scout said. “He was always a ‘take the ball’ kind of pitcher. He wasn’t scared of anything, was aggressive, a strike-thrower.”
“There are some guys who are middle relievers, that don’t have the mentality to come in at the end of the game,” the AL scout said. “But the way he goes about his business and gets the job done . . . once you see him, you’ll know.”
Yankees fans have been aware of Melancon’s near readiness for a while now. Perhaps the only remaining question on Mark Melancon is how to say his last name?
According to the Yankees 2008 Media Guide, it’s “Muh-Lansen.” That’s close to “muh-LAN-sen” and “muh-LANCE-in.” So, that’s what I’m going with too.