April 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Right-hander Madison Younginer has always had a big arm. The Red Sox bet on that arm in 2009, drafting him in the seventh round and giving him a large over-slot bonus as a raw high schooler. So far, his career has been set back by injuries, and the in-game results have left something to be desired.
Last year was to be his triumphant homecoming when he was assigned to Low A Greenville, which is less than 15 miles from where he grew up and went to high school in South Carolina. However, he stumbled to a 7.29 ERA and only made 13 appearances (12 starts) on the season. This lack of games pitched can be attributed to the fact that he was placed on the disabled list on June 5, and he was not activated again until Aug. 28.
Following his March 23 spring training outing though, Younginer pronounced himself ready to go this season, feeling that he can finally get back to pitching comfortably after overcoming injury.
“I’m just feeling good mechanically and everything, and fully health,” the 22-year-old said. “Coming off of an injury last season, I'm ready to go.”
SoxProspects.com scouts have commented on both the rigidity of his mechanics, and his inability to repeat them at times. There’s no doubt that the injuries played a part in those issues, but the right-hander felt his time spent this offseason in the Dominican Republic working with instructors has paid off for him so far.
“I got a lot of mechanical kinks worked out, and ever since the Dominican I've felt really in sync,” he said. “My arm feels great and it really gives me a lot of confidence headed into the season.”
In a March 23 outing, he followed Cody Kukuk to the mound in a Low A game against the Minnesota Twins and went just two innings. It’s unclear at this point whether he is being transitioned to a relief role or he is just working up to starters’ innings more cautiously than others.
“I'm not sure what they have planned, I'm just going out there and trying to dominate every chance I get,” he said.
It would make sense for him to make that jump into the bullpen, as most scouts see that as his ultimate path to success on the mound. The Red Sox like to keep a prospect in the starting rotation as long as possible while developing, but Younginer may be a special case where injuries and ineffectiveness have sped up that time frame for the move.
He has a live fastball that tops out around 95 mph and is a potentially dominant weapon for him out of the bullpen. He also throws a curveball with plus potential and has the feel for a changeup, but lacks command and consistency with both secondary pitches.
“I went out there and throughout the two innings I felt confident in all three of my pitches,” he said following the outing. “I didn't get to throw the changeup much; it just wasn't the place for it. But the fastball-curveball felt great, the changeup felt great in warmups. It's been doing well this spring.”
The right-hander is looking to put the 2012 season behind him, and he is likely to get a second attempt at the homecoming he envisioned with Greenville when the season begins. This time, it’s not about results for Younginer, but being healthy and in the right frame of mind while pitching.
“Just going out there and having the right mental approach, having the right mindset when I'm on the mound,” he said on his goals for the season. “I think that will help me stay in-sync with my mechanics and not get into any bad habits.”
Photo credit: Madison Younginer by Kelly O'Connor
Matt Huegel is Managing Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.