The Joey Mahalic File
Born: Nov. 28, 1988 in Portland, OR
Acquired: 32nd-round draft pick in 2007 from Wilson (Portland, OR) HS.
Strengths: Power sinker-slider mix, athletic background (dad Drew played in NFL). "A very intelligent young man with the ability to make adjustments. We think he will realize all of his ability," said player development director Ross Atkins.
Weaknesses: Still very inexperienced, baseball-wise. Mahalic knows what needs to be done. "I have to work on my changeup and on repeating my delivery," he said last summer.
2009 Projections: A couple more months at Lake County, then a midseason move up to Kinston.
2008 & MINOR-LEAGUE CAREER
BONUS COVERAGE: The following story is reprinted from the November 2008 issue of Indians Ink Magazine:
Mahalic Has Solid Career Start At Early Age
By CHUCK MURR
Joey Mahalic wasn't one of the Indians' higher-profile draft picks. He could turn out to be one of their more successful selections, though.
Cleveland picked him in the 32nd round in 2007. Teams passed on the right-hander because they assumed he was going to attend Oregon State, where he had signed a letter of intent. Mahalic was more interested in becoming the second professional athlete in the family.
His dad Drew played four seasons in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles. The former All-American linedbacker at Notre Dame later enrolled in Harvard Law School and in 1983 became the first NFL veteran to graduate from the school. He taught law in Ireland, spent four years working for the United Nations in Switzerland, and published a book on football sportsmanship. More recently, he has been chairman of the National Association of Sports Commissions and CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority, which has worked hard to try and get Major League Baseball in Portland.
Most of all, Drew Mahalic has followed the exploits of his son, who has made an impression in two seasons in the Indians organization.
"Mahalic has been solid," said Ross Atkins, the Indians' director of player development. "He has the making of three average pitches, is aggressive and gets ground balls with a potentially above average sinker. He's a very intelligent young man who has the ability to make adjustments and someone that we think will realize all of his ability."
Nothing Mahalic does now surprises the Indians, who were stunned at his eagerness to sign and then his quick success on the mound.
"He had the scholarship to Oregon State and we were surprised when we talked to him how receptive he was to signing," said John Mirabelli, the Indians' assistant general manager in charge of scouting, who added that he thought Mahalic could be the "sleeper" of the team's picks in '07.
"We're talking about a kid who came out of high school at 6-3, 200 pounds, 18 years old with a power sinker-power slider mix and great makeup."
Mahalic went 2-0 with a 4.88 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Indians in 2007. In seven games including four starts, he walked seven, struck out 21 and didn't give up a home run in 24 innings. He followed that up with a very impressive extended spring training this year, yielding only one earned run in 21 innings.
"My worst outing was two hits," he says. "To be able to work on things and go with not necessarily your best stuff was a big plus. I worked a lot on my changeup.
"I never had one in high school because I never really needed one. My fastball has good sink and is a good groundball pitch. The velocity on my slider has increased a lot over the last year and a half. So now the changeup is my third pitch, and I've developed it enough so I am able to use it effectively. It's light years ahead of where it was, but I still have a lot of work to do."
Mahalic continued the learning process this year in extended spring training, where he gave up only two runs in 21 unofficial innings. Moved up to Class A Lake County, he showed more progress. "I was really excited to go to the next level," he said after making his Captains debut in May, allowing three runs on seven hits over five innings and striking out five. "It didn't go exactly how I wanted. I had a little too much adrenalin going. But to go in there and get a win in the first game was positive, and a learning experience as well."
Mahalic was 5-1 by the end of June. He took a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning at Augusta (Ga.) in late July, then gave up two runs and a homer and lost. In early August, he had three consecutive strong starts, allowing only two runs over 16 innings with 13 strikeouts.
"You've got to keep in mind that he's not even 20 years old yet," Captains manager Aaron Holbert said. "He's competing against some players who had four years of college ball, guys that have five, six years more experience. He's hung with them and learned a lot along the way."
Mahalic said being at spring training and then playing at Lake County, only 20 minutes from Progressive Field, gave him a chance to study some of the Indians' veteran pitchers. If the Captains had a day game and the Indians played at night, some of the Lake County players would go downtown to check out life in the majors.
"I'm a sinkerball guy," explained Mahalic. "I use it to get a lot of ground balls. It's great to watch guys like Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, even it it just throwing a bullpen session. That was one of the great things about spring training. I could watch those guys live and closeup, see what they do to get prepared, how they warm up, how they make adjustments. They are guys that I want to be and it doesn't get any better than to watch them and learn.
"I'd be lying if I told you how I throw a sinker. It's just something that I do. I can try and get better with it, learn the feel when I throw a good one and try to repeat it. But to explain how I came to throw it? I don't know. It's just one of those natural things."
Now, Mahalic is working on other things that don't come quite as readily to him.
"I have to work on repeating my delivery and work on my changeup," he said. "Whatever they need me to do, whatever they want me to do, I'm ready to try and learn. They know what is best. They've developed a lot of pitchers. Hopefully, I can learn what they tell me and we'll go from there."
As a youngster, Mahalic honed his athletic skills with Next Step College Sports, which primarily works with aspiring football players in the Northwest. Among those to have been in the program are Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Kellen Clemens of the New York Jets and Browns quarterback Derek Anderson.
"Ever since I was four years old, I've wanted to be a pro athlete," Mahalic said. "My dad played in the NFL, so football was always special to me, too. But deep down it was always baseball for me. I played football in high school and could have gone on and played it in college, but baseball meant more to me."
Mahalic's dad wasn't his only boyhood hero. "Ken Griffey Jr., since I grew up in the Northwest, was a hero to just about everybody," he said. "He was the most fun baseball player to watch. We all wore Griffey jersies and tried to go up to Seattle and see him play. Everybody in the neighborhood watched games on TV and we would see him do incredible things, make great catches, hit game-winning home runs. We hoped he would do it when we went to a game, too."
Mahalic didn't know a lot about the Indians, other than cheering against them a couple times when Cleveland met the Mariners in post-season play in 1995 and 2001 and whenever he saw them on TV. He was slightly surprised to be drafted by the Tribe.
"I definitely knew the Indians were interested," Mahalic said. "The draft is a funny thing because so many things are up in the air. You know there have been scouts from a lot of teams at your games. You know there's interest, but you don't hear your name called. Then when you do hear it, you can't quite believe it.
"Getting picked by Cleveland was great. I couldn't have landed with a better team. First, they were one of my favorite teams growing up, but then to get here and find out how we are treated by the organization, how we get such good coaching, how we are taken care of overall – it's just a dream come true."
Mahalic said he is positive he chose the right sport to play and considers himself fortunate to be able to learn in the Indians' system.
"Being in pro baseball is definitely a new experience for me," Mahalic said. "The level of play is a lot higher up. Even in spring training, you look around and there are a lot of really good players, hundreds of them. We've all got the same goal. There's a competition among us, but we support each other, too. There's so much dedication by everybody who wants to be the best and there's a lot of camaraderie. I really like that.
"Just the coaching we get is really amazing. The dedication the organization has to every player is really something."