BP: Steven Matz and Prospects Who Exceeded Expectations

20130913-145658.jpgAt Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks and friends put together a list of Prospects who exceeded their expectations in 2013. It’s a list skewed in favor of younger players at lower levels as six of the 10 guys played in the South Atlantic League and just two of the players saw time in AA.

I have a few issues with the writeup on Matz.

Chris Mellon begins:

Given Matz’s injury history and limited body of work, the left-handed starter was more of an uncertainty entering the season. … But, after missing the 2010 and 2011 seasons from reconstructive surgery, he gave the Mets only a brief, 29-inning glimpse of that stuff returning before he was shut down again with soreness in the same elbow. It’s not hard to see why just pitching through a full season was more than a reasonable expectation, which Matz ended up surpassing this year.

Matz had Tommy John surgery in May of 2010. However, his 2012 was cut short after six starts and 29 innings not by anything in his left elbow, but by shoulder tendonitis.

And yes, Matz surpassed an reasonable expectation for his 2013 season.

Mellon continues:

Reports confirmed that the stuff is on an upward curve and that Matz is also beginning to put his injury woes into the past. His fastball was consistently clocked at 93-96 mph, with late tail and the type of explosion to beat opposing hitters. The lefty also cuts the pitch to produce two different looks depending on the situation or point in the sequence. Matz’s curveball and changeup received high marks. Each of his four pitches has a chance to play at above-average consistently, with the current feel displayed for his arsenal being a key strength. Matz’s stock is elevating quickly, and don’t be surprised to see the buzz beginning to swell around him this offseason. There’s still a good amount of risk here and expectations will be much higher in 2014, but things are trending in the right direction.

Again, I agree with the conclusion, things are most definitely moving in the right direction for Matz.

However, I saw all of Matz’s home starts in 2013, including both of his playoff starts, and I did not see four pitches. He’s a three pitch guy at the moment: fastball, curveball and changeup. Is he counting a cutter as Matz’s fourth pitch? If so, that’s a mistake. Neither Savannah pitching coach Frank Viola nor the Mets really like teaching the cutter to guys in a-ball, preferring to focus instead on fastball command.

At 92-97, sitting 93-95 regularly with his fastball in the playoffs, that’s a plus pitch. I like his changeup, which is thrown with good arm speed, and produces a little sink as his second pitch. It certainly looked like a plus offering at times to me.

There was a time early in the year when Matz and Savannah Pitching Coach Frank Viola were trying to make this breaking ball a slider, but by the second half of the South Atlantic League season, they had abandoned that effort to focus on his curveball, which was his primary breaking ball in high school and early professional career. The pitch indeed shows promise with, when it’s right, good depth and late movement. It can get sweepy and he has trouble locating it for a strike. However, there are fewer spinners, than when he was trying to work on his slider. If memory serves, he did not throw a single strike with his curveball in his final start of the playoffs in the Gnats’ clinching win in Game Four of the SAL playoffs.

Anyway, Matz had a very strong 2013 season in terms of results and development. His stock is rightly way up.

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