Looking for a reinforcement for their pitching staff, the St. Louis Cardinals promoted right-hander Seth Maness to the big league roster this week. Maness doesn't show up on most hot prospect lists, but he's reached the Show less than two years after leaving college baseball, a rapid rise for any player, but particularly one who did not draw raves as an amateur.
Maness pitched college baseball at East Carolina University. He was quite successful and was one of the top control artists in the NCAA in 2011, posting a 1.71 ERA, a 10-3 record, and an 80/17 K/BB in 105 innings. Scouts liked his command but they didn't like his non-fast fastball. He dropped to the 11th round of the draft, where he was selected by the Cardinals. Lacking negotiating leverage as a senior, he signed for a mere $1,000.
He adapted very quickly to pro ball, posting a 0.91 ERA with a 31/3 K/BB in 40 innings for Batavia in the New York-Penn League after signing. He pitched 13 additional innings between Low-A Quad Cities and High-A Palm Beach, posting an 11/2 K/BB.
Maness returned to Palm Beach to open 2012 and showed spectacular command with a 29/1 K/BB in 46 innings, resulting in a 2.15 ERA. Promoted to Double-A Springfield, he continued to Rembrandt the ball with an 83/9 K/BB in 124 innings with a 3.27 ERA. Before his promotion this spring, he had a 4.32 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Memphis, giving up 35 hits in 25 innings, but with an 18/3 K/BB.
Overall, Maness has thrown 248 professional innings, resulting in an insane 172/18 K/BB ratio and a 2.80 ERA.
Listed at 6-0, 190, Maness is a right-handed hitter and thrower born October 14, 1988. As you can surmise, he doesn't have superior velocity, hitting 91 MPH at times but usually working in the 80s. His ability to locate the fastball is superb, and he compliments it well with an average slider and change-up. None of his pitches are excellent, but his control is so outstanding that minor league hitters have never gotten a good read on him. He mixes his pitches well and is allergic to walks.
That may or may not work in the majors: top-quality hitters might jump on him since they know he's always around the plate and will never back down. He has little margin for error and will always have to be perfect. That said, scouts have learned not to underestimate Maness. His strike-throwing ability is special, and sometimes the control guys can surprise us, witness Doug Fister or, going way back to a former Cardinal, Bob Tewksbury.
Even if the best outcomes don't occur and Maness is just a useful Quadruple-A pitcher and emergency reinforcement, that's still one hell of a return for $1,000.