Troy Melton didn’t suit up for the varsity baseball team at Canyon High in California until his junior year in 2017. He was the team’s backup catcher and pitched six innings his junior season, he said.
After receiving his first tasting of pitching in 2017, Melton concluded his prep career as a two-way player. He posted a 2.34 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings while hitting .306 at the plate his senior year to earn North Hills League MVP honors.
Despite his success, Melton only received two offers to play college baseball. San Diego State offered him a preferred walk-on spot and Division II Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.) was willing to give him a scholarship.
Melton’s family urged him to take the scholarship and attend Point Loma Nazarene. But Melton had other ideas. He instead wanted to test his skills at the Division I level. The decision to attend SDSU has paid off.
Melton has focused exclusively on pitching at SDSU. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty has developed into an intriguing pro prospect during his three years in college. Scouts project Melton as a potential top-three-round pick in July’s MLB draft.
“It is crazy,” said Melton on the draft attention. “It is cool because coming into college, I wasn’t a draft prospect, even a little bit. When I got to college, I didn’t expect to be a prospect. I was just trying to carve out my role at San Diego State and get as good as I could get. Things have taken me to where I am at now. It is all pretty cool.”
In his first two years at SDSU, Melton pitched 25 innings. He suffered a lat strain in the first start of his college career and threw just 2 2/3 innings in 2019. Last year, the pandemic-shortened season caused him to pitch 22 1/3 innings. He posted a 3.22 ERA with 26 strikeouts and nine walks allowed.
This year, Melton struggled at times with his consistency. He recorded a 6.14 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 30 walks allowed. He hit seven batters and allowed 12 home runs.
“I don’t want to say the whole thing was a failure because it was the first year I got to pitch a full college season,” Melton said. “This season, I couldn’t get outs when I needed to. I got beat by weak content, and then I would try to do too much. Moving forward, I need to stay composed and attack hitters.”
On the mound, Melton throws a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and changeup from a long arm action and three-quarters arm slot.
His fastball sits around 93 mph and has topped out at 97 mph. Since SDSU’s season ended, Melton has started throwing a two-seamer in catch play and plans to throw that pitch against live hitters in the future.
His slider is his best secondary pitch. Earlier in the season, Melton used a loopy slider and a cutter. But about halfway through the season, he ditched the loopy slider and just threw his cutter, which he describes as a hard-breaking slider.
Melton’s curveball and changeup are average offerings. He added the curveball to his repertoire this spring.
“My biggest strength is my competitiveness,” Melton said. “I don’t think I let things get in my head too much. I think I do a good job of staying the course, making sure I battle and just stay through with what I am doing. Those I think are my best assets.”
Melton is relatively new to pitching, offering him plenty of room to grow and develop. His his ceiling intrigues MLB teams as they prepare for the draft.
Scouts believe Melton might have to shorten up his arm action in pro ball, as they feel it could be why he struggles at times with his control and command. He wants to add strength to his frame while refining his secondary pitches in preparation for pro ball or his senior season at SDSU.
“I just want to continue to get stronger,” Melton said. “I want to add strength while also remaining flexible at the same time.
“Control is the main thing for me. I think my stuff is at a point where I’m pretty comfortable with it. I just need to be more consistent and throw every pitch for strikes in every count. The next big step for me will be getting ahead of guys and attack them better. That’s what’s going to take me to the next level.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.