05/22/08 12:33 PM ET
Right-hander Melville impressing scouts
Missouri high schooler shows ability with stuff and makeup
By Robert Falkoff / Special to MLB.com
But Melville isn't wired that way. Hickman wanted to put a runner in scoring position and possibly avoid the shutout. Melville wanted to keep that zero on the scoreboard. The game within the game had begun.
Melville kept throwing rather deliberately to first against a pinch-runner determined to steal. Finally, Melville sprang into action with his best pickoff move and the runner was out diving back to first.
Without throwing a pitch, the 6-foot-5 Melville had given the Major League scouts gathered behind home plate a glimpse of what kind of competitor he has become.
Memo to the talent evaluators: Nothing comes easily against Melville.
"I just want to show everything I've got in every game," Melville said. "I want to work on everything."
Melville has been drawing a bevy of scouts to his games all spring. Thanks to a fastball in the mid-90s, an effective knuckle-curve and a projectable frame that has the scouts drooling over his potential to increase velocity, Melville has seen his name pop up as a first-round possibility in various mock drafts.
On this early May afternoon, Melville recorded a complete game 8-1 victory. Columbia Hickman finally pushed across a run in the seventh with a two-out RBI, but Melville left with a satisfying feeling after a dominant effort in which he blew away some hitters with his fastball and froze others with his knuckle-curve.
"I had the whole repertoire," Melville said.
Melville has grown used to pitching his high school games with radar guns popping out behind the screen. With the Midwest burdened by a relentlessly cold early spring, Melville needed time for the velocity and the control to become a harmonious blend.
But as the weather has warmed up, so has Melville. A scholarship to North Carolina awaits if Melville is inclined to go that route. But if his Draft status on June 5 is in line with the projections, Melville is ready to realize the dream of becoming a professional baseball player.
"It has been a lot of pressure having a lot of scouts at every game," Melville said. "It has been a rollercoaster and kind of crazy, but I'm enjoying it. Either path, I'm ready -- college or pro."
Melville's family moved to Wentzville, a St. Louis suburb, from Virginia prior to his freshman year. An accomplished hitter and third baseman when he's not pitching, Melville shines brightest when he's on the mound. He threw just five innings as a sophomore because of shoulder tendinitis, but has had no such problems as a junior or senior.
"You can't teach 6-5, and you can't teach 94-95 (miles per hour)," Holt coach Joel Adam said. "Tim has a Major League body right now. He's the real deal."
Adam said he gets a lot of questions from Major League teams about Melville's character and work ethic.
"They can see the talent from the stands," Adam said. "But when you're talking about investing that type of money, they want to know how driven a kid is in regards to constantly improving and making himself as good as he can be.
"Tim never just throws his glove out there and says, 'I'm better than you are.' He is going to work at it to make sure he's better than you."
Melville is a student of pitching mechanics. As a youngster, he was a big fan of Nolan Ryan. In more contemporary times, he has looked up to Justin Verlander of the Tigers as someone he hopes to emulate.
"Verlander has just nasty stuff out there," Melville said. "I love watching him pitch."
Melville burst into full-blown prominence last summer when he attended the Aflac All-America High School Baseball Classic and received the Jackie Robinson Award as the nation's best player.
"It's the greatest award any high school baseball player could get," Melville said. "I was in shock when I got it. Just a huge confidence booster."
Melville is helping to carry on a proud pitching tradition at Holt High. Left-hander Ross Detwiler, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, attended Holt before moving on to Missouri State.
While Detwiler had three years to develop as a collegiate pitcher, the scouts have to measure Melville in a different manner.
"Those guys are projecting where he is going to be in three or four years, and that's hard," Adam said. "But I've said from day one that if Tim's not going to be there, I'd like to see the guys ahead of him. He's so fluid and effortless. That's what all the scouts are excited about."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.