In 2015 the Padres grabbed Phil Maton in the 20th round of the MLB Draft. Exactly two years and one day later Maton was on the mound in Milwaukee recording his first career big league save, looking like he is about to become one of the best young closers in baseball.
The Padres ended up with Maton because an area scout saw something and set off a series of events that led to the guy taken in the 20th round being the first one from the class to reach the Major Leagues.
“We had two guys that were helping split the area,” said Padres Director of Scouting Mark Conner about the trek to find Maton. “Those two guys where covering north Texas.”
Louisiana Tech is in northern Louisiana so one of the scouts made a trip to the city of Ruston to see Maton pitch. He came away impressed.
“Good body, arm action, delivery, starter at a Division-1 university,” said Conner of the scouting report. “He liked the components.”
Once the Padres were intrigued with the physical tools they started the next stage of the scouting process by diving in to Maton’s personal history.
“Who he was; good athlete,” said Conner. After those boxes were checked they looked at the analytics.
“TrackMan data and things of that nature and you find out there are some really interesting components to what he does to be successful,” said Conner.
One of those components … in fact the one that really put Maton on the map … is the vicious spin rate of his fastball. Maton’s heater spins at more than 2500 RPM, allowing it to ride higher in the strike zone and look a lot faster than its 94 MPH velocity. Maton’s spin rate is slightly better than Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer and even Aroldis Chapman.
In college Maton was a starting pitcher where he had decent strikeout numbers. The Padres put him in the bullpen and in pro ball he became a punchout machine, whiffing 58 hitters in 32.2 innings at Tri-City in the Northwest League. He has not stopped striking guys out since, giving San Diego one of those proverbial draft day diamonds in the rough.
“I think it was a group effort getting him, definitely led by the area scouts in that situation,” said Conner.
If Maton keeps this up then pretty soon he’ll have to pick out his entrance music as the next San Diego Padres closer.