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What to expect from Mets rookie Steven Matz

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Like Corey Seager in Los Angeles, New York Mets rookie Steven Matz performed well in the majors in 2015 but retains rookie status entering '16. With nothing left to prove in the minors, Matz has a spot in the starting rotation and will be counted on heavily as the Mets seek a return to the post season. What can we expect?

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
Bats: R Throws: L HT: 6-2 WT: 200 DOB: May 29, 1991

2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade B+

The arc of Steven Matz’s career is well-known at this point: local kid, second round pick in 2009, career slowed and almost ruined by Tommy John surgery and a difficult recovery, then a return to health and effectiveness in 2014. A lat tear cost him more pitching time in 2015 but when healthy he showed what he was capable of, often dominating hitters with a fastball into the mid-90s and a quality curveball and change-up. His command still needs some tightening, with his 3.61 FIP and 3.56 xFIP more indicative of his true level of present ability than his 2.27 ERA. That’s still just fine, though, and in my view he is a quality major league starter capable of being a consistent number three with some seasons as a number two. That assumes he will be durable, which may not be the best assumption given his track record, though at least last season’s trouble was not arm-related. Grade A-.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:

Matz posted a 2.26 ERA in 35.2 major league innings last year with a 34/10 K/BB and 34 hits allowed. A noted in the book comment, the 2.26 ERA overstates matters and his component ratios support an ERA a full run higher. The objective projection systems pick up on this: Steamer projects 3.59 ERA/3.61 FIP, while ZiPS is at 3.37/3.33. Baseball Prospectus is the most pessimistic at 3.55 ERA. All systems project him with a strikeout rate just under 9.00 per nine innings and walk rates at 3.00 per nine or just a bit better.

While not as juicy as the 2.27 mark from last fall, an ERA around 3.40 or so, with a good number of strikeouts, would still be quite valuable in both fantasy and real baseball contexts.

In terms of scoutable talent, Matz has three above-average pitches in his fastball, curve, and change-up. He has the necessary command and mental toughness. There are no serious red flags with his mechanics, mentality, or performance. The main concern is workload: he's never gone past 141 innings in a regular season and we'll have to see if he tires late in the year.

Overall, Matz projects as a consistent number three starter with some seasons where he exceeds that.