The Instructional League season kicked off this week at the Mets complex in the Dominican Republic.…
Scouting Mets Prospect #21: Steven Matz
Name: Steven Matz
DOB: May 29, 1991
Status: 2nd Round (2009) – Ward Melville HS (NY)
The headline could have read "Local Kid Stays Home" and it would have been very appropriate when the Mets selected Steven Matz with their top pick, a second round selection in 2009. The young southpaw, chosen out of high school, achieved a personal goal when the front office in Queens called on draft day.
"I knew the Mets had a lot of interest in me, but when I saw the pick was getting close I started getting nervous," Matz detailed about his draft day atmosphere. "(The Mets) actually never called, and I didn't think I was going to get picked. When I heard my name, it was a huge weight of my shoulders."
Yet his signing became a tenuous process that dragged out to the 11th hour. Matz finally inked his deal on August 17th, deadline day, and thus missed the opportunity to pitch in the Gulf Coast League last summer.
"Once I signed, it was like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders because I didn't know what was going to happen. I was pretty nervous during the summer because I didn't really know what to expect, but everything worked out," he recalled.
That time away from the mound dissuaded the Mets from pressing his arm into game action and instead the left-hander was limited to side work. Despite missing the time and opportunity to suit up in the Gulf Coast League, pitching coordinator Rick Waits was impressed by the top selection's mental preparation.
"He didn't have a chance to throw because of some weakness in his shoulder at the time. We just decided to not throw him this fall. He started throwing in December and looked great so there shouldn't be any problem," Waits explained.
"What I like about him is how much he knows about the game. That surprised me a bit because the kid's from the Northeast have limited schedules and limited game play," Waits continued. "I'm impressed at how much he knows about the game. I got a little time with him in August to watch him throw in a couple of bullpens. He's got a big, powerful arm and I'm excited to work him again in the spring.
That power arm was the first thing Matz worked on. He is obviously young, but most importantly Matz is learning how to command his fastball. He acknowledged it is the necessary first step when his career gets underway in the spring.
"The first thing is just working on the command of my fastball," said Matz. "I was working with Rick Waits, talking about things and what separates big leaguers from the minors is the ability to command three or four pitches whenever they want and that it starts with the fastball."
"I'm just easing into it and trying to get my arm in shape slowly with throwing a little bit so that I'm ready for whenever the next I go out there to pitch," Matz explained. "Now that I'm down here (in Florida), I realize that I've got a lot of hard work in front of me and great players to face. Hopefully, it will all work out."
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball: Matz's lively fastball with good velocity is what made him such an intriguing choice. His fastball is anywhere from 88-92 MPH though there are reports that he hit 93 at times during his senior year of high school. He showed good command and is able to mix it on both sides of the plate. It remains to be seen if his velocity will increase as he physically matures. The expectation is that his velocity will sustain at the higher end of that 88-92 MPH range. Being a left-hander, his fastball has natural tailing action that gives him slight deception.
Other Pitches: A high-70s curveball is Matz's top secondary pitch. It is a projectable pitch because of the good spin, arm action and movement he creates, but his release point still needs work. When he properly stays on top of the ball, he gets good late break which makes it tougher to center on the bat. Otherwise his curveball comes out with a big loop and becomes very hittable if it stays up in the zone. He finishes things off with an underdeveloped changeup which he is still gaining feel for. Matz has made it a priority to improve his changeup.
Pitching: Being a young pitcher, Matz is still heavily reliant on his fastball and uses his secondary pitches to set up for his fastball. Not much was discerned this summer due to lack of work, but Matz has a power approach that should lead to success once he harnesses and further develops his curveball. The changeup will require more work, and likely lag behind his other pitches, but he has enough stuff at this point to be successful at the short-season level.
Projection: It is very early in his career and having not appeared this season means more will be learned about Matz in 2010. His size, good body strength and velocity could allow him to be a fast riser, especially if his changeup quickly develops. A power left-hander is a rare commodity in this system, but Matz physical traits point to him becoming just that in the future. He has starting pitching potential, but it is a long road for him to get there.
ETA: 2014. As mentioned, Matz did not see any game action this season which increases the likelihood that he will begin his career in the short-season leagues. While he could remain in Florida and the Gulf Coast League in 2010, the organization could very well decide to send to Brooklyn where he will be aggressively challenged by experienced collegiate hitters. We expect the latter as Matz embarks on a four-year minor league journey to Queens.
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