Featured image courtesy of the Boston Globe
The Boston Red Sox have historically struggled to develop young pitching talent. However, there is some hope for the system in 19-year old Bryan Mata. Mata, a right-handed pitcher, is one of the top prospects within the entire farm system. Mata has been in the organization for three years, showing promise at every step of the road. The Venezuela native finished the season with High-A Greenville, throwing to the tune of a 3.50 ERA.
Bryan Mata: Prospect Watch
Mata has continued to rise through the minors in every season he’s been in the organization. Pitching for the Salem Red Sox for the entirety of the year, Mata began to put himself on the national radar.
Mata’s best offering is his fastball. Currently, his fastball velocity sits at 92-94 miles per hour, which is a good number for a starter. This is actually an improvement from the past, as his fastball used to sit in the 90-92 range. The pitch has great movement and incredibly high potential.
Mata complements this fastball with an above-average changeup and an unspectacular curveball. Per SoxProspects.com, Mata is likely to add a cutter to his arsenal at some point in the near future. If he can turn that pitch into a solid offering, it should help his other pitches play up as well.
Mata finished his 2018 campaign with a solid, yet unspectacular, 7.63 K/9 rate. However, what’s most encouraging about him is his ground ball rate. When batters put the ball in play against Mata, they put it on the ground 57.7% of the time. This is far above league average and is a sign that Mata was able to consistently fool hitters and force weak contact.
While there’s a lot to like about Mata, there’s also a few things to be worried about. As mentioned earlier, Mata finished 2018 with a 3.50 ERA. However, he also had a 4.76 FIP, which implies Mata’s 2018 wasn’t nearly as good as his ERA would indicate.
A deeper dive into his numbers backs this up. Mata finished 2018 with a terrible 7.25 BB/9 rate, one of the worst in all of baseball. The young righty was issuing almost one walk per inning, which simply cannot happen if Mata ever wants to become a major leaguer.
While the walk rate is terrible, there’s reason to believe it was just a one-year fluke. In Mata’s first two years in the organization, the righty had a 2.80 and 3.04 BB/9, respectively. Both of these numbers are more than good enough for major league pitching, so Mata can hopefully return to that form.
As mentioned earlier, Mata increased the velocity on his fastball. With the increased velocity came the lack of control. If Mata wants to take the next step in his development, he’ll need to learn to locate his fastball without sacrificing his newfound speed.
Mata Moving Forward
Mata will likely start the 2019 season with the AA Portland Sea Dogs. Going from A ball to AA ball is one of the hardest adjustments a pitcher can make, and how he responds to the increased talent will be fascinating to watch.
Mata will only be 20 next year, so he’s moving through the system at a very fast clip. However, the biggest thing he needs to address in order to continue his development is his command issues. A 7.63 BB/9 just isn’t going to cut it in the higher levels, and he’ll stand no chance of making it to the majors if he can’t fix this.
Should Mata’s command issues be just a one-year problem, he has the makings of a major league starter. While he’ll be a true ace like Chris Sale, he can definitely find a home in the starting rotation. If everything goes right, Mata could be a solid mid-rotation arm.
That said, don’t expect to see him too soon. Mata is just 19 and hasn’t pitched above the High A level. He’ll need at least a year with the Portland Sea Dogs and the Pawtucket Red Sox before he’s ready to contribute to the majors. However, he could be a September call-up in 2020, with a chance to earn a full-time spot in 2021.