What to expect: Steven Matz
Young lefty could work way into permanent rotation spot
When Noah Syndergaard was called up to help the Mets' rotation in May, the question that soon followed was, "When will Steven Matz get a shot?"
The answer, it seems, is this weekend, as Matz is expected to join New York's rotation when the Mets return to some version of a six-man rotation, a plan they scrapped when Dillon Gee was designated for assignment not long ago.
It's been a long, and far from easy, climb for Matz, the left-hander from Long Island taken by his hometown team in the second round of the 2009 Draft. Raw and unpolished back then, the Mets knew Matz, ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, would be a bit of a project. They didn't know he wouldn't throw a competitive pitch for nearly three years following Tommy John surgery and several subsequent issues.
The wait was worth it as Matz has made relatively quick work of the Minor Leagues, going from the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2012 for his pro debut to dominating in Triple-A this season. Matz's pure stuff has gotten sharper over time, and he's surprised many with his overall feel for pitching, especially considering all the time he missed. The 24-year-old southpaw pitches well off of his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, though he can reach back for more when needed. Matz's changeup is his best secondary pitch, an offspeed pitch he sinks very well. Perhaps the biggest contributor to his fast climb is the improvement in his breaking ball, which is now at least a Major League offering. Matz misses bats, stays around the strike zone and thanks to the sink on his fastball and changeup, gets a fair share of ground balls.
There's no reason to think Matz can't have the same kind of success at the big league level that he was having in Triple-A. He has the raw stuff to continue to miss bats, and his ability to sink the ball should help him pitch to weak contact. This is a left-hander who had a 2.45 ERA and a .201 batting average against in a tough pitching environment in Las Vegas. If Matz can pitch effectively there, it stands to reason he can have success in the National League as well.
It remains unclear how long the Mets plan to use the expanded rotation, or who the odd man out would be should they decide to go back to five. Matz does have the power repertoire to be successful out of the bullpen if needed, but that would only be a short-term solution. Expecting Matz to work his way into a long-term rotation spot is more than realistic.