Madison Younginer, a 19 year-old graduate of Mauldin High School (SC), was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The 6'4" right-handed pitcher has been described as "raw," as is the case with most high school draftees, but not short on potential. His arsenal of pitches far exceeds the advancement displayed by most pitchers relative to his age; the same can be said regarding his level of maturity and collectively confident demeanor displayed on the mound.
Rated the Red Sox's #24 prospect (according to SoxProspects.com), Younginer has seen plenty of successes during his prep career -- something that he tells us he hopes to carry over to Fenway Park one day.
Madison was kind enough to answer a few questions and discuss a couple topics with OTM's Logan Lietz recently. So, here it is; an interview and overview of Boston Red Sox's prospect, Madison Younginer.
Draft Experience & Signing With Boston
Prior to draft day, Madison Younginer was the second rated player out of South Carolina and was widely considered one of the best "raw arms" available via the draft. Despite being held in such high regard by scouts and analysts, when I asked Madison to describe his draft day experience he was still quick to cite the anxiousness that he felt heading into the draft, starting as early as the night before;
"Draft day was a very memorable experience. I couldn't sleep at night because I was curious and excited about what the next day was going to bring. The first day of the draft we watched the first round on television and talked about what was going on. I actually had a couple of calls in the supplemental first round, but they weren't the offer I was looking for so we declined. The first day passed and I had not been selected. The second day was on the internet, so we left the computer on the draft broadcast and waited to see what would happen. Boston called my dad and then I saw my name come up on the screen and my family went crazy, and then I got the call from my area scout, Quincy Boyd."
Although it may come as a surprise to most initially, deciding to sign on with the Red Sox wasn't exactly an easy decision for Madison. With a chance to play baseball at Clemson University representing option number two, his slight hesitation was seemingly justifiable. Madison addressed that situation briefly in the interview:
"To bypass Clemson was a very tough decision. They are one of the top baseball universities in the country and have a great coaching staff. I also had to bypass getting the opportunity to hit. I came up with an amount that I thought would be life-changing and worth signing. The Red Sox and I came to an agreement and I'm very happy with my decision."
Did it help that the team drafting him was the Boston Red Sox?
"I was not specifically a Red Sox fan [growing up], but I have always been a Fenway Fan. On video games I always played with the Red Sox so that I could have Fenway as my home field."
Madison Younginer As A Pitcher, Competitor
Younginer features four surprisingly advanced pitches for a prospect coming straight out of high school; 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs, 12-6 curveball, and a newly-developed changeup that sits in the low-80's. While it may more often than not be his high-90's fastball that garners the most attention at this point in his career, his best pitch is arguably his curveball which has been described as devastating to hitters within his age group (one scout even going as far as saying that it made his high school competition "weep").
SoxProspects.com compares Younginer's overall game to that of Kerry Wood. I asked Madison whether he felt that was an accurate depiction of him as a pitcher. I also asked him which pitchers he modeled his game after while growing up in South Carolina;
"I think that's an accurate comparison [Wood]. Growing up I was a big fan of Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan. Even with all that has gone on with Roger Clemens, he was still one of the best pitchers to play the game. Nolan Ryan is my favorite player and my pitching coach had me watch him a couple times. I tried to pitch as those two because I've seen some similarities between the two that I really like."
One area of Madison's game that has come to resemble those of Clemens and Ryan -- Ryan in particular -- is his personality on the mound. When I asked Madison to discuss his pitching-persona and where he learned it from, he was quick to offer praise to one specific individual;
"...my pitching coach in high school, Todd Robinson, taught me how to be competitive with a fire in me on the mound while also showing a calm demeanor. It helps me not get affected by things going wrong and allows me to concentrate on the next pitch. Although, when something goes really well I often express a thing or two."
Madison's last comment provided a good segway for my next question as I asked him to briefly speak on the parts of his game that he felt were the strongest at this point in time. Similar to most scouting reports, Younginer addressed his plus arm-strength at the onset of his comments before ultimately referring the majority of his self-praise towards his curveball and in-game demeanor;
"...I throw hard and get a lot of spin on the ball. It allows my curveball to be 12-6 and get a good amount of drop close to the plate. I also stay focused well and like being in tough situations."
Madison's self-assessment skills are refreshingly accurate and without bias, a fact that lingered on through his response to my next request: Describe your weaknesses as a pitcher through your own perspective. His answer was again strikingly-similar to that which you'll find in most scouting reports. One report in particular stated that Younginer's natural talents, while unanimously considered well above average, occasionally fail to manifest as a result of his slight inability to maintain a consistent delivery and release-point.
"I need to learn to command my pitches better. Most of that involves an improvement of repeating my delivery, making my mechanics more effective, and practice. In the Instructional League I improved tremendously from last spring, but I feel I can make further improvements in the coming years. I also need to work on controlling the tempo of the game."
One of the biggest question marks surrounding Younginer as a pitcher, at this point, is just what type of pitcher he projects to be. His velocity and pitches are harmonious to that of a relief pitcher, but many (Madison included) consider Younginer better-apt in the starting rotation. Opportunities to scout Younginer as a starter were sparse in high school -- a fact that Madison attributes to his Mauldin High School head coach's decision to allow him to play centerfield as well as hit every game. The question, specifically, is whether or not Younginer can maintain his velocity as a starter. Madison took the time to answer that question himself;
"Yes, I have heard that many times and I have always been a starter. I think that came from me pitching 3 or 4 innings in high school the first 2 outings. My head coach felt it was best for the team that I play centerfield and hit every game so that limited my pitching during the season. I closed a few games too. He let me go 6 innings my last outing and there were scouts there but none from Boston. My 103rd and 104th pitch were both 96 on 2 stalkers followed by my last pitch of the season which was a curveball. I believe I can be a starter in the system and I'm working hard with my conditioning to last the whole season. Not sure what I will end up being."
Through Madison's own words on the subject, I gleaned that he has no intentions on settling as a reliever. In fact, he seemed rather prideful of his ability to start games and almost offended by the suggestion that he lacks the required stamina that accompanies the role of starting pitcher; a relative chip on his shoulder that he expressed through a sort of contained confidence that came off considerably admirable.
Accomplishments, Accolades, & Pitching At Wrigley
Younginer has accrued an impressive list of accolades for someone yet to turn 20 years of age -- most notably being named Gatorade's Player of the Year for South Carolina in 2009. Other awards include All-region selections for both his sophomore and junior seasons, All-state selection as a junior (selected by High School Sports Report), being named South Carolina's #1 high school prospect (selected by Perfect Game), as well as being chosen to Under Armour's All-American team.
The Under Armour All-American game was a particular topic that I wanted Madison to reflect on as a part of the interview, mainly because of its venue that year -- Wrigley Field. The game itself was significant to him because it was the first time that he felt as though he stood out at a higher level of competition;
"Pitching at Wrigley was amazing. The entire Under Armour All-American Game was an experience like no other for a high school player. I got to meet players from around the country and they gave us a tour of the city while having us stay in a nice hotel. My actual pitching experience at Wrigley was awesome too. It was when I felt I made myself stand out for the first time on that level of play. My inning was three up and three down, including two strikeouts. The umpire gave me a little on the outside corner so I stayed on it."
While pitching at Wrigley Field as a member of the Under Armour All-American team was a truly significant experience in Younginer's baseball career, it was not the subject of his response to my inquiry regarding his proudest baseball-related moment (outside of being drafted). Instead Madison chose winning the 2008 Big League World Series as a representation of his most prideful moment;
"My greatest accomplishment other than being drafted would be winning the 2008 Big League World Series. No one really knows they have a big league like they have little league but we played Puerto Rico in the championship game and came back in the 7th inning from a 4 to 0 deficit to win 5 to 4."
Goals & Aspirations
When asked about his short-term goals heading into 2010, Madison's addressed the subject vaguely -- citing his superstitious nature as the reason why;
"My short term goals are to go into spring training and be on top of my game. And I have other goals but I'd rather not share, kind of superstitious about all that."
Fair enough. However, when asked about his long-term goals as a part of the Red Sox, Younginer grew a bit more bold in his response;
"My long term goal is to make it to the big leagues and become the number one starter for the Boston Red Sox. That is not easy but I definitely believe it is achievable."
Madison: Off The Field
Finally, I asked Madison if there was anything that he wanted to share with our readers on a personal level outside of baseball, or maybe something that fans may not already know about him;
"When I'm not thinking about baseball, I'm usually on the computer looking up something on cars. I'm obsessed with muscle cars and learning about engines. Also my cousin, Brandon Snyder, plays with the Orioles and being in the same division, I would love to face him at Fenway one day."
Madison Younginer has more than enough talent and potential to succeed at the major league level. Couple that with his drive and determination, and his goal of one day pitching at Fenway Park atop the Red Sox's rotation doesn't seem all that farfetched.
*Special thanks to Madison for the generosity that he displayed with his time for this interview. From all of us here at OTM and 'Red Sox Nation,' best of luck in the upcoming season and beyond.