May 29, 2011; Hoover, AL, USA; Florida Gators relief pitcher Austin Maddox (10) celebrates after his team defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC Championship at Regions Park. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

The Ones that Got Away: Austin Maddox

With the draft approaching, let’s talk about some of the players who the Rays drafted previously who are now in the 2012 MLB Draft. Hypothetically, the Rays could draft them again. Right now let’s talk about Austin Maddox, who the Rays selected in the 37th round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Eagle’s View Academy in Jacksonville, Florida.

I talked about Maddox, now at the University of Florida, as part of my MLB mock draft for Seedlings to Stars. Here’s what I had to say there.

109th Overall: Cleveland Indians

College two-way players drive you insane. What position will they play as a pro? Are they better at one compared to the other? Are they not really so impressive but we overrate them because they play multiple positions? Austin Maddox isn’t even the only two-way player on his team, joining Brian Johnson, who I had going to the Brewers in this mock’s first round. But he’s a prospect worth watching and could possibly fill a couple of different holes for the Indians, who have needs at starting pitcher and at first base.

Maddox, 6’3″ and 220 pounds, has done a lot of things for the Florida Gators during his time in Gainesville. He has played third base, first base, and pitcher. Whether Maddox is a better prospect as an infielder or a pitcher is still up for debate. From the mound, Maddox consistently hits the 92-95 MPH range with impressive late sink, and he also mixes in a nice 11-t0-5 curveball with sharp break and a changeup. Maddox controls all three of his pitches well down in the zone. Maddux has worked exclusively in relief at Florida, but he has the repertoire and likely the stamina to start if he’s converted exclusively to the mound, although that may come with somewhat of a downtick in his stuff. As a hitter, Maddux has a short stride and good bat speed with nice lift in his swing, but his inexperience as a hitter shows as he lacks patience and struggles to recognize which pitches he should drive. Defensively, Maddux has the athleticism necessary to play third base and he makes full use of his arm. He could be a tick above-average defender at third base if the team that drafts him decides to go that route. Maddux was a high school catcher who showed some nice ability defensively, and if a team really likes his bat, they might try him back at the catcher position. Maddux is a versatile prospect with questions in several divergent parts of his game, but he could definitely be a productive player at some position. The big question is where.

The Pick: Austin Maddox, P/CI, University of Florida

Updating that scouting report, Maddox is now viewed primarily as a pitcher after spending 2012 as Florida’s closer. 6’3″ and 235 pounds, his fastball hits as high as 96 MPH with nice movement and he commands it well. His curveball has gotten slurvy at times, but it’s still shows the sharp break when he is able to get on top of it. His changeup has shown some improvement as he has used it more. Maddox used his arsenal to manage a 9.5 K/9, a 1.8 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 to go along with 12 saves and a 2.28 ERA. Maddox already has an impressive relief arsenal and has the ability to sharpen it up as he pitches more. But his inexperience as a pitcher and need to sharpen up his skills drops him to the second to third round range in the 2012 Draft. I had him selected in the third round in the mock draft above.

The wild card with Maddox is his ability as a position player. Maddox was actually selected by the Rays as a catcher but at Florida he played first base before transitioning to third base. Maddox showed some nice defense at third but he has pitched more each year at Florida. Maddox posting a .333/.369/.587 line with 16 doubles and 17 homers for the Gators back in 2010, but his offensive skills have taken a step back as he has pitched more and he also has rawness at the plate, especially in terms of his plate discipline. That could be something that could be remedied if he’s converted to a positional player full-time, but that seems to be less likely than his ability to sharpen up his pitching abilities. Maddox’s future appears to be on the mound, but his ability at third base gives him a failsafe that most players don’t have.

Could the Rays draft Maddox again? If he was in the draft last year, there may have been a chance since the Rays had so many picks in the first couple of rounds and Maddox does a lot of things well and has as good versatility as anyone in the country. But the Rays are unlikely to draft him again unless he falls to the fourth round or beyond because the Rays have never been a team that drafts college relievers early or college infielders for that matter- with Evan Longoria being an exception because they were selecting in the first five picks and because he is, well, Longo. Maddox is an interesting prospect with the ability to contribute in the big leagues at one way or another. Maybe we’ll have to look back after he succeeds and wonder what would have happened if he had signed with the Rays. In short, things would have been different- who knows how he would have been as a catcher? Would the Rays have converted him to the infield or the mound? It will be fun to see how Maddox’s pro career plays out- if pro baseball careers aren’t variable enough already, Maddox magnifies that even more.

Tags: Austin Maddox Evan Longoria

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