Strong and athletic, left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde has the perfect physical presence to gain respect on the mound. He's 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and he's all business. The message he conveys with his mound demeanor is simple: "Don't dig in."
That's what I like most about the Angels' 24-year-old reliever prospect. He's in control when he's pitching.
As a starting pitcher for Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky, Maronde was the recipient of awards and accolades for his 38-3 composite record. The Athletics chose Maronde in the 43rd round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but he elected instead to attend the University of Florida, where his success continued.
In his 79 career appearances, which included 12 starts, Maronde was 5-2 with a 3.99 ERA and four saves. He had 151 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings.
In 2011, the Angels selected Maronde in the third round. He signed his contract and began his career as a starting pitcher for Class A Orem in the Pioneer League. In five starts, he threw to a very solid 2.14 ERA with an equally impressive 1.10 WHIP.
Maronde, the Angels sixth-ranked prospect, has skyrocketed through the Angels system.
In his second season, Maronde pitched at four classifications. He threw 99 2/3 Minor League innings over 20 games, 18 of which he started. Beginning in the Arizona League during the summer, he worked his way to Class A Advanced Inland Empire, then to Double-A Arkansas. The highlight of his 2012 season was a call to the parent Angels on Sept. 2 at age 22.
During his brief stay with the Angels, Maronde pitched in 12 games, all out of the bullpen. He had a sparkling 1.50 ERA, facing 27 hitters over six innings.
This season, Maronde returned to Double-A and pitched exclusively as a reliever. He threw 56 1/3 innings, yielding only 41 hits. His 37 walks indicated a need to sharpen his control and command a bit. Carried over a nine-inning game, Maronde would average 10 strikeouts and almost six walks per game. From what I have seen of him, Maronde's secondary pitches are the source of any command issues.
Maronde throws a tailing fastball that he can locate very well on both sides of the plate and at the hitter's knees. It's a very strong pitch, from which he can alternate to a high-quality slider. The slider might well be his best out pitch. His fastball usually sits at 90-91 mph, while the slider has late bite at around 85 mph.
Maronde's third pitch is his changeup. Like many pitchers in development, at this point, that appears to be his least effective offering. It can be called a work in progress. If Maronde can command his changeup -- throwing strikes, and inducing swings and misses -- he will increase his opportunity for consistent success.
Maronde has some elbow and back issues in his history. However, he appears to be very healthy and ready to take his place on the Angels' 25-man roster.
With two effective pitches mastered, Maronde fits the prototype of a solid reliever. Given the fact left-handers hit only .181 against him this season, it may be tempting to label Maronde a "situational lefty." That's fine, until one looks at the .216 clip for right-handed-hitters.
It reveals that Maronde is an effective pitcher, period.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.