In working on 2006 draft coverage, I stumbled across an intriguing righthanded pitcher out of Utah Valley State, a new Division I program that had recently jumped from the junior college level.
Righthander Kam Mickolio threw a complete game shutout at Nevada, the first one ever thrown in Peccole Park, and the account of the game I got had Mickolio hitting 92-93 mph at times with his fastball. Reports already indicated that the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder threw downhill well and kept the ball in the ballpark despite the thin air of most of the western ballparks he pitched in. Mickolio earned a fairly glowing scouting report based on that outing, but he sat more frequently in the 85-88 mph range, with fringy secondary stuff. He lasted until the 18th round, where the Mariners signed him.
Two years later I got to see Mickolio in person, pitching for Triple-A Norfolk in the Orioles system. He’d been included as a virtual throwaway in the Mariners’ ridiculous Erik Bedard trade, even though he reached Triple-A in his first full season in the Mariners system. Mickolio started this season in the Double-A Eastern League and impressed its managers, who gave him support in our Best Tools survey for Best Fastball and Best Reliever.
Not bad for a native of Montana who recently told our Kary Booher that he didn’t play baseball until he was a high school senior. Seeing him in person, I could see why EL managers liked him, as he hit 97 on the Durham Bulls Athletic Park radar gun and showed sick movement on his low-90s sinker. He throws across his body and has improved his slider as a pro, so he’s virtually unhittable by righthanded batters. They’ve hit .217 against him, including 3-for-28 in Triple-A, and had 33 strikeouts in 120 at-bats overall. Mickolio said a major key was just being able to repeat his mechanics more recently, giving him the ability to repeat his pitches.
"I know what feels right and feels comfortable," Mickolio told us last week. "I can read how the pitch feels out of my hand. If it’s up and in on a righthander, it means I’ve been dragging my head. (Recognizing that) has helped me.
"In previous years, when things weren’t going well, I would keep staying on the same track because I wouldn’t recognize what I was doing wrong. Now I can recognize what I’m doing wrong and that’s been a big factor."
He’s not doing much wrong anymore; the Orioles have promoted Mickolio to the major leagues. He had a 3.67 ERA overall in the minors this year with 60 strikeouts and 29 walks in 56 innings, and he’s another example of a player the Mariners wish they’d kept rather than packing in to the Bedard deal.
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