Position: RHP Height: 6-4 Weight: 190 Born: 5/8/81 Bats: Right Throws: Right
John Maine attended college at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. As a sophomore in 2001, he led Conference USA with 12 wins, 144 strikeouts, and posted a 3.82 ERA, earning conference Pitcher of the Year honors. However, his junior season in 2002 was less successful, and he dropped to the sixth round in the draft that June. This turned into a bargain pick for the Orioles. Maine pitched brilliantly in his '02 pro debut, then zipped through A-ball in 2003, leading the minor leagues in strikeouts and posting a stellar 185/38 K/BB ratio. He began 2004 in Double-A, but earned his way to Triple-A after just five starts. Maine is one of the better right-handed pitching prospects in the game, and should arrive in Baltimore later this summer.
Maine is a good athlete, tall and somewhat lanky and thin, with broad shoulders. He has a "loose" arm and doesn't look overly vulnerable to injury. His biggest problem in college was erratic mechanics, which would hurt his command on occasion. But this has been much less of a problem in pro ball, and his command has been very sharp. His fastball runs in the 90-93 mph range, with excellent sinking and running action. He has made major improvements with his curveball and changeup, giving him a solid three-pitch arsenal. Maine can throw any of his pitches for strikes, and has overcome a previous habit of relying too much on his fastball. He is intelligent, emotionally mature, and has sound pitching instincts, understanding the necessity of changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. Although he doesn't throw quite as hard as some of the elite prospects in the game, he's proven he can dominate professional hitters.
There is little to complain about in Maine's statistical profile. His K/IP, K/BB, and H/IP ratios have been uniformly excellent at every level, particularly the K/IP. He doesn't give up very many home runs, another positive predictive marker for the future. Although he has just six starts at Double-A and above, his numbers show little deterioration at the higher levels, obviously a good sign. We need to see how he does with the additional Triple-A starts coming his way, but there is nothing in his record to indicate serious adjustment problems ahead.
Maine has had no serious injury problems. His occasionally erratic mechanics in college made some scouts worry about his long-term health, but he has been more consistent and efficient in pro ball. If you've been reading these reports long enough, you know that doesn't guarantee he'll stay healthy. But it does reduce the risk.
What to expect
Statistically, Maine offers just about everything. Scouting-wise, while he doesn't blow the ball past people with pure velocity, his stuff is more than respectable, and his command has been excellent. He's getting his shot now in Triple-A, and if he continues to pitch well, a promotion to Baltimore is likely later this season. Maine projects as a solid mid-rotation starter, and is a good example of the bargains that can be found in the middle rounds of most draft classes.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation, is also out, and can be ordered through on-line book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife Jeri, son Nicholas, and feline friends Toonces and Spot.