It has been 656 days since Sean Mooney heard his name called in the 12th round of the 2019 MLB Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.
This coming April, after a year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and the 2020 Minor League season cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the St. John's and Ocean City High School product will finally step foot onto a professional pitching mound.
Consider yourself warned, @MLB.
After a stellar career at Ocean City High School, Mooney, a 2018 2nd Team All-America selection and the 2017 Big East Pitcher of the Year (as a freshmen), finished his career at St. John's with a 21-6 record, 249 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA. He was well on his way to another record-setting year before his throwing elbow required surgery after 9 superb starts. In just two and a half seasons of work, Mooney finished 5th all-time in St. John's history in both career wins and strikeouts.
The Marmora, NJ, native has spent the past two years rehabbing, fine-tuning his mechanics and arsenal, as well as utilizing this extra period of time to perfect his craft.
A True Unicorn Fastball
Prior to many of the new technologies becoming available in the baseball industry today, pitchers with fastballs like Sean Mooney's would have been characterized by hitters and catchers as "rise-balls".
Now, with technologies such as TrackMan and Rapsodo, however, we can actually quantify why that is.
The average Major League fastball has about 15" of induced vertical break. Mooney's fastball averages around 24".
This elite carry is due to a number of reasons, most notably a straight over the top delivery in combination with an uncanny ability to spin the ball at close to 100% efficiency consistently at 2600+ RPMs.
This has made Mooney's fastball an extremely hard pitch to make contact on, and an even harder pitch to barrel. In college, this pitch sat around 88-90 MPH with pinpoint command. This past week, Sean touched 95 MPH with his heater (more on that in a bit).
(If you're interested in what makes high-vertical fastballs so effective, check out this article by FanGraph's Jeff Zimmerman).
Off-Speed That Plays
In addition to Mooney's elite fastball, he also has three off-speed pitches that fill up the other three quadrants of the movement plane. Where his rising fastball fills up the "north" plane, his changeup (east), cutter (west), and 12-6 breaking ball (south) make at-bats against him extremely uncomfortable.
Players with fastballs like Mooney's typically don't need more than one elite off-speed pitch. Sean has 3.
Remapping & Revamping the Throw
Even with Sean's unbelievable college numbers (and metrics), we still felt that there were ways to clean up his throw. What better time to attack this then during a global pandemic?
A couple of adjustments we worked on from these original throws:
Eliminate the "jump"
Load consistently over the shin
Have hips rotate down the mound into front foot strike
Glove arm work on the same plane as the throwing arm.
Lo and behold, the new and improved Sean Mooney throw:
Time to Go
With the Minor League season finally coming back after a year-long hiatus, many players will be making their professional debuts this season. Mooney will be no different. What will make him different, however, is the work that he has put in since he threw his last pitch at St. John's in 2019.
Expect big things out of the Twins RHP prospect in 2021.