Scouting Orioles Pitching Prospect Brian Matusz
*Updated on 4-7-10: Click here for an updated scouting report on Brian Matusz…by watching Matusz on an extended basis, I’m in line with the thinking he’s a potential No. 1 starter. That’s why it’s always best to watch somebody extensively before judging them. That’s not always possible to do, but it’s always the best way.
*Edited on 8-13-08: I’ve been thinking about it, watched a little more video on Matusz, and I’ve decided to tweak my grading of him. I think his upside is a tick higher than the 8 I originally gave him. I don’t see his upside as a true No. 1, but his breaking stuff is good enough where he could become a good No. 2. His stock will rise even further should he add velocity to his fastball. I also updated the final paragraph of this article to give my current assessment of Matusz’s value as the No. 4 pick.
Today, I am reporting on a prospect that has me somewhat conflicted: college pitcher Brian Matusz. The 21 year old, 6-foot-4 lefty from San Diego is a slated to be a top-5 pick in the upcoming June draft.
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We’re going to weave back-and-forth between analyzing Matusz’s mechanics and the quality of his stuff — specifically his fastball — since I believe the two attributes are directly related to one another.
The biggest question I and others have about Matusz is the quality of his fastball. Matusz’s fastball sits anywhere from 88 – 92 mph, pumping it up to 94 at times. Below is a clip of Matusz’s fastball:
His velocity overall has been inconsistent and I think his mechanics are a big reason why. Let’s compare him to what may be the best pitching prospect in baseball right now in Clayton Kershaw:
The camera angles of the clips are different, but we can still see the differences in stride length between both players and the difference in separation between each player’s torso and hips. Below is the key sequence of events:
Matusz has a noticeably shorter stride. This is problematic because his fastball loses that sneakiness quality to it. It doesn’t have that late action where the pitch appears to increase in velocity just before it reaches home plate. Kershaw does have this quality in his fastball and one reason for this is because he is releasing the ball a little closer to home plate than Matusz because of the longer stride.
With that being said, Matusz makes up for this with a release point that is difficult to pick up.
Also in view from the above side shot is the hip and torso separation. At the end of the animation, you have two ovals highlighting each pitcher’s torso and hips once their pitching arm has reachied its ready-to-throw position. Which pitcher to you looks like he has created more separation between his torso and hips? In my view, that pitcher is Kershaw.
The significance of this separation is the tension created between the pitcher’s upper body and hips; at foot plant, Kershaw’s upper body is about to uncoil fury toward home plate, bringing the arm along with it. Matusz is less efficient with his body in being able to produce velocity.
So there is a reason why Matusz, a projectable lefty, has yet to add much velocity to his fastball while in college.
Nevertheless, Matusz does possesses two off-speed pitches that rate anywhere from above average to plus: his curveball and change-up.
His curveball has a sweeping action and is extremely tough on left handers, while he is able to maintain his arm speed on his change-up and consistently get hitters out in front. Matusz also features a slider that can be rated anywhere between average and above average.
Another major strength of Matusz is his control. Below you’ll see a big reason why his control is so good:
Watch Matusz’s glove; notice how it “firms” up as his front shoulder begins to open. This helps in having a consistent release point and lessens the stress put on his shoulder.
The “Safe” Pick
Matusz often gets labeled as the “safe” pick, which is a term I hate to put it bluntly. The reason is because there are no safe picks. The closest thing to a safe pick in the major league baseball draft would be an elite college hitter or pitchers with almost no question marks in terms of stuff, control, mechanics, and mental make-up. However, the label “safe” is often applied to pitchers that have an advanced feel for pitching, plus control, and are seemingly close to major league ready. I’m usually wary of players given the “safe” label.
But Matusz has a bunch of qualities that distinguishes him from other “safe” picks. First, his numbers are excellent, sporting strong peripherals across the board. A big red flag for pitchers labeled as safe is the numbers don’t match the overall hype being given to the player. In Matusz’s case, they do.
Matusz also still has some projection left, so he could possibly add a couple more MPH to his fastball as he matures and/or tweaks his mechanics. Add in good control and a couple of plus (or close to plus) pitches and Matusz does offer a lot to like.
You can find an average upside starter or an average everyday position player in later rounds. However, if you take signability out of the equation, I would prefer to draft the player with the best chance of reaching elite status even if that pick might be a little more risky overall. Heading into the draft, I felt Aaron Crow was that best bet. I still do, but the gap has narrowed considerably for me since. Part of that is Crow’s decision not to sign with the Nationals (delaying his development by a year) and part of it is my opinion of Matusz has grown.
8.5 Upside, Low-Average Probability
6.5 Downside, Low Probability
For an explanation of the grading scale, please click here
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