Matz GnatsIn case you haven’t heard, Steve Matz is kinda good.  In fact, he’s actually pretty good.

Even before he pitched 12.2 scoreless innings in the South Atlantic League playoffs, allowing five hits and striking out 17, the 22-year-old lefty from Stony Brook, NY was opening eyes in his first full season in the minor leagues.

His final stat line for the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2013 read like this: 21 starts, 106.1 innings pitched, 2.62 ERA (coupled with a 2.63 FIP), 121 strikeouts, 38 walks and one shutout.

Considering that line and his status as one of the few left-handed pitchers in the Mets’ farm system, expect to see Matz rocket up prospect lists this offseason (including the one currently being constructed by our very own David Groveman).

Although his season has been spectacular, it’s probably not enough to launch him into the upper echelon of Met pitching prospects with the Noah Syndergaards and Rafael Monteros of the world.

The main reason for that is Matz’s injury history.

After being drafted in the second round of the 2009 Amateur Draft by Omar Minaya, Matz underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 before he threw a professional pitch.

It took over two years for Matz to fully recover from the surgery, finally making his professional debut last June with the Kingsport Mets.

In six games with Kingsport, Matz pitched 29 innings, walking 17 and striking out 34 before being shut down with tightness in his throwing shoulder.

This year, however, he was able to stay healthy and dominate the competition in the SAL.

But for Matz to truly elevate his prospect status, he’s going to have to put together another great season in 2014, when he will most likely be pitching in St. Lucie of the Florida State League.

That is not an insignificant factor.

The SAL is notorious for being an extreme pitchers league, almost to the extent that the Pacific Coast League has a reputation as an extreme hitters league.  The league average OPS was .686 in 2013, lower than any full-season minor or major league other than the AA Southern League (.683).

When he has to face better hitters in more offense-friendly environments next season, more will be revealed about what can be expected from Matz in the future, but for now, it is best to have a mindset of cautious optimism.

I certainly don’t mean to trivialize any of what Matz has accomplished, but as Domingo Tapia showed this year, success in Savannah does not mean that it will translate in St. Lucie.

Joe Vasile is the play-by-play announcer for Widener Pride football and the host of “Ball Four” on 91.3 FM WTSR in Trenton from Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon.  Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasile and visit his website.

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7 comments on “Steven Matz shines in playoffs for Savannah

  • Metsense

    Thanks for the OPS stat for the SAL. Only reinforces how good Plawecki and Boyd were and why Nimmo’s year wasn’t a disappointment. Matz gets bonus points for pitching so outstanding under pressure. Congrats to the Sand Gnats, can’t wait to wear 2013 SAL League Champs shirt when they come to town next year!

  • Chris F

    Agreed. Congrats 2013 Sand Gnats!

  • James Preller

    Good point about the leagues. Brooklyn is also pitcher friendly. So annually the Mets will produce young pitchers with eye-popping numbers who are not, in the final analysis,true major league prospects. They have to do it at the higher levels before I will memorize the spelling of their names. St. Lucie is the first meaningful test.

    • Joe Vasile

      Agreed about St. Lucie being the first meaningful test for Matz (and any prospect for that matter). The bigger test for me would be to see if he can simply stay healthy two years in a row.

  • Sean Flattery

    Go Sand Gnats!! There’s a line I never thought I would ever say

  • James Preller

    When young guys like Matz go down to Tommy John surgery, my friend and I always say, “At least he got it out of the way.” It’s half-joke, partly serious. Injuries seem inevitable, so it becomes almost a timing issue.

    Of course, no, it’s not the script I’d write. For me, Matz is not yet a real prospect, but he has the potential of becoming one with a strong 2014.

  • […] I wrote about Matz back in September 2013, I said one of the main things to look for was how he would respond when faced with higher level […]

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