Brice Matthews, the University of Nebraska shortstop the Astros selected with the final pick (28th overall) of the first round of the MLB Draft in July, completed his debut pro season, most of which was spent playing for the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
Matthews, the Astros’ No. 4-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, slashed .208/.365/.352 (.717 OPS) with four homers, 11 RBIs and 18 stolen bases in 35 games in his professional debut, 33 of which were spent at Fayetteville. He finished the season on a good note, going 2-for-4 with a homer on Sunday. He had multiple hits in three of his last six games and 10 games for the season.
“I think it was a great experience,” Matthews said. “It was a lot of fun being with the guys and just playing baseball again. It was really fun to see how I stacked up against everybody else and being able to compete again.”
Matthews, a former star high school quarterback at Atascocita High School in suburban Houston, is a 6-foot, 190-pound right-handed hitter who blossomed into a serious prospect in his junior year at Nebraska, hitting .359/.481/.723 with 67 RBIs and 61 runs scored to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. He became the first player in Nebraska history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in a season.
Matthews said getting his feet wet in professional baseball was an eye-opening experience, which came with many adjustments along the way. He said his focus was simply to improve each day, which he felt that he did. Play hard, and let the results take care of themselves, he said.
“I still feel like I competed really well, but there was a lot more movement on the fastball than there was in college,” Matthews said. “I think that was the biggest thing.”
Defensively, Matthews spent the season at shortstop, the position he played at Nebraska. That also came with some adjustments.
“I felt a lot more comfortable out there, just being able to be an athlete,” Matthews said. “That was the main thing we talked about every day -- just be an athlete and just maximize that, and I feel like I was doing that really well.”
Matthews, who signed for a bonus of $2,478,200, which was below the slot value of $2,880,700 for the No. 28 overall pick, will next head to strength camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., and rest up in the winter following a whirlwind 2023 summer. He’s likely to begin next season at High-A, with a chance to reach Double-A sometime in ‘24.
“It’s been great,” Matthews said. “It’s been a great experience. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason. Just wherever life takes me, I’m ready for it. Flow with the wind.”