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Know Your Prospects: Daniel Mahoney, RHP, Florida Marlins

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When Daniel Mahoney took the mound for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls during the summer of 2008, the serious fans got out of the line for hotdogs and popcorn and cemented themselves as close to the field’s barrier fence as possible.

In a league full of jocular boys (the NECBL is often many young players’ first exposure to wooden bats), Mahoney exuded a captivating maturity and electricity withheld only for those with serious aspirations.

With his gloved hand tucked tightly against his chest, Mahoney would straightforward charge from the left field bullpen. He’d reach the mound, mutter a few words to himself, and tuck in his necklace. And then he’d warmup. But his warmups weren’t warmups; they were serious battles. Steely eyed and focused, he’d never take his eye off the catcher’s mitt, not even for a second.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Buck O’Neil may have said it about hitters, but it’s true. You really can hear a difference.

It was the first time I saw this unfold when I thought to myself: This guy’s something special. He hadn’t even pitched to a single batter, but I felt some kind of instinctual revelation. And I was confused and puzzled and baffled. It shouldn’t be this easy to pick out a needle out of a haystack. But sometimes your gut is right.

Mahoney, a 6’4″ righthanded flamethrower, was named the NECBL’s top professional prospect at the end of the season. Originally groomed as a starter during his freshman year at the University of Connecticut in 2008, Mahoney was moved to the team’s bullpen in 2009, a direct product of the success he had in the NECBL. In 28 innings that year, he struck out 26, walked 10, and posted a modest ERA of 4.16.

During the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, Mahoney was selected by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round, 128th overall.

Mahoney’s first season was, admittedly, not a success. He was converted back into a starter and during his first professional stint with the Jamestown Jammers of the short-season New York-Penn League, he posted a 1-6 record with an ERA a tick over 8.00. In early August, Mahoney hit the team’s 60-day disabled list to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Over the past six months, Blogging About Baseball has received a lot of hits from people looking for information on Mahoney. For a fourth round pick, there’s really not much known about him. Luckily, I had the opportunity to interview Mahoney earlier this week as he begins the long road to recovery…

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UConn’s Dan Mahoney surprisingly drafted in fourth round of MLB draft.

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As a “security guard” for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Newport Gulls in 2007, I saw Dan Mahoney close out game after game for the team. He quickly became the standout player on the team.

When he took the mound, it was all but over. Still, closing out games in collegiate summer ball is a different animal than pro ball; I didn’t expect scouts to take notice.

And it looked like they didn’t.

That's a fourth round pick right there.Occasionally I’d Google his name and see if there was any news on the draft front. I never found anything. And when the Baseball America Prospect Handbook came out earlier this year, Mahoney was nowhere to be found in the College Top 100. Still, Mahoney left an impression on me. I even kept some game day programs so I’d remember his name…

As I tuned into the MLB First Year Player Draft conference call today, I expected to hear “Jesse Simpson” and “Brandon Sizemore” before “Dan Mahoney.” Truthfully, I didn’t even expect to hear his name at all. So, I was incredibly shocked when I heard “Florida selects Daniel Mahoney, a righthanded pitcher from the University of Connecticut” during the fourth round. He went 128th overall.

To say that Mahoney’s selection in the fourth round is a surprise is an understatement. There was more-heralded, more-publicized, players still left on the board. Florida must have noticed something…

As a friend of the general manager of the Gulls, I got certain privileges at games. In a park with no dogs allowed, I was able to sit with my newly-adopted mutt on the field near the Gull’s bullpen.

There, I got to see Mahoney and the other Gulls’ pitchers in action. Mahoney always gave the impression that he actually enjoys baseball, that this is a way of life for him. He consistently kept the mood light among the other pitchers, joking and playing pranks. When it was time to pitch though, he was beyond focused.

He always trotted to the mound with nothing but intent in his eyes. He didn’t nibble at corners, he came straight at you.

Here’s my shit, I dare you to hit it.

In 2007, Mahoney was lights out for the Gulls. By the end of the year, he was the NECBL’s top pro prospect.

This year, he’s a fourth-round pick in the amateur draft. His makeup and character are off the charts. He’s got good stuff, and it should develop more with some strength and conditioning training from professional coaches.

All I gotta say is, I told you so.

In a couple of years, my guess is that Mahoney will regret this (he’s #19):