Joe Mahoney talks about his big year on the O’s farm

If you had to pick a player to be named Orioles minor league player of the year for 2010 today, many might pick first baseman Joe Mahoney.

The sixth-round pick out of the University of Richmond from 2007 is having a breakout season and making quite an impression.

It started at Frederick where Mahoney put up solid power numbers. Since July 9 it has continued at Double-A Bowie where Mahoney’s bat has been sizzling hot.

In 17 Baysox games since his promotion, the 23-year-old lefty batter is hitting .406-6-15 with an OPS of 1.222.

He has already had a pair of two-homer games for Bowie. Last Saturday vs. Richmond, he went 4 for 4 with a double, two homers and 5 RBI.

“It’s a big confidence booster getting the callup. I hope to help these guys win, they are well on their way to a playoff berth,” Mahoney said of his move to Double-A.

“I felt good all year at Frederick. I worked hard with the coaches there. (Coach) Denny Hocking really helped me a lot with defense and offense. (Manager) Orlando (Gomez) helped me with the mental side of the game. I just want to keep it going and finish the year off strong.”

Mahoney was batting .299-9-49 with 18 doubles and an OPS of .823 in 72 games for Frederick.

But his numbers since the move to Bowie are getting everyone’s attention.

“I didn’t think I would be hitting .400. But some of these guys I have faced at High A or in the past. I was just trying to come in here, make a good impression on everyone and keep this good season rolling.”

Mahoney made a name for himself last year as the big man at first base that could steal bases. Now he’s the big man hitting the homers.

Last season at Delmarva, Mahoney hit just seven homers in 108 games, but he stole 29 of 30 bases after losing a lot of weight before the season. The slimmer, quicker Mahoney also picked up some base-stealing tips from Matt Angle, a Delmarva teammate two years ago.

“In 2008, I went into the year a little heavy. I had some injury problems and tore my quad around the All-Star break at Delmarva. I knew, going into that off-season, that I had to do something to stay healthy all year.

“I needed to get back to the basics how I had played my whole life with a lot of hustle and being able to get down the line. So I dropped about 40 pounds and came into 2009 looking to have a good solid year.

“That worked well, but my power numbers were down. This past off-season I worked on really focusing on my swing. And I put on ten pounds of good muscle that would help me through the year home run-wise while still keeping my speed.”

So the 6’6” Mahoney went from 270 pounds to 230 last year and is playing around 240 with more bulk this season.

He said the Orioles wanted him to add the bulk and hit more longballs.

“I don’t know how many homers I had last year, but they definitely wanted to see that number jump. I knew if I wanted to make it to the big leagues, they don’t want a guy that steals 30 bases at first base.

“They want a guy that can hit 20, 30, 40 homers. I started to hit in the off-season with that backspin I had in college and really driving the ball to the gaps.

At Delmarva (last year) I had seven or eight at the break and hit just one in the second half. So I went back to the basics to figure out what I did my whole life to be that home run guy. Really felt like I was starting to figure it out this year.”

That is for sure. In 89 combined games this year between Frederick and Bowie, Mahoney is batting .319-15-64 with 22 doubles, a .525 slugging percentage and .899 OPS.

He has already produced career highs in homers and RBI.

Mahoney is quick to point out the coaching he has gotten on the O’s farm and said he particularly liked working this year with Frederick hitting coach Denny Hocking, a former Major Leaguer.

“I worked with Denny a lot and all the guys among O’s management told me we are really looking for you to hit home runs. It’s not a survival thing I’d say, but something I knew I had to do to move up and try to make an impact. That was my main focus this off season.

“Before games he (Hocking) was always there doing extra stuff with me. He is one of the best baseball minds I’ve ever talked with. He understands the physical side, but also the mental side as well. I didn’t always have that in pro ball.

“He helped me to relax, go game by game and put everything in perspective. If you have a bad night, don’t turn into a head case where you think it will carry over for a week. That is what Denny helped me with.”

Mahoney also says he is hitting in a good spot in the Baysox batting order.

“We have a good lineup here. I have Guzman hitting in front of me and Waring behind me. They can’t pitch around me with guys with serious power potential around me.”

Mahoney’s bat and career are really taking off in 2010, a year where he moved up a level and elevated his game as well.

Later today: I’ll have more with Mahoney. More on his big season, his home run power, his defense and some coaches that have helped him improve this season.

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