Twins prospect's elite command: 49 K's before 1st walk

May 23rd, 2024

Limiting free passes from the mound depends on control, command and precision. And then there is the type of surgical precision has displayed -- the kind one usually finds in an operating room.

Coming into the season, there wasn’t a pitcher in the Twins system with better command than the club's No. 20 prospect. Now there might not be another pitcher in all of the Minor Leagues with better command than Matthews, if the way he's begun the season for Double-A Wichita is any indication.

The Wind Surge right-hander amassed 49 strikeouts before issuing his first walk of 2024, that astounding streak came to an end on his 24th birthday. Before Matthews issued a free pass to Ray-Patrick Didder (Padres) to open the fifth frame of Wednesday's 4-3 loss in 10 innings to San Antonio at Riverfront Stadium, he had faced 141 consecutive batters to open 2024 without walking any.

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For context, only twice in Major League history since 1893 -- when the mound was moved back to 60 feet, 6 inches -- has a pitcher began a season with more strikeouts before his first walk: Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out 51 batters before walking one in 2017 and Brewers ace Corbin Burnes struck out 58 before walking one in 2021.

Prior to Wednesday, Matthews’ last walk came back on Sept. 8, 2023, his final start last year for High-A Cedar Rapids. That was seven outings ago.

Remarkable, yes. But not that surprising coming from Matthews, Minnesota's eighth-round pick in 2022 out of Western Carolina. Command has been his calling card since arriving in the system, and it's only gotten better and better. He’s pitched 148⅔ innings across four levels, issuing only 16 walks.

That’s a minuscule 0.9 walks per nine innings.

He’s struck out 169 batters in that span. That’s 10.2 per nine.

His 169-16 career K/BB ratio is otherworldly. This year, it’s an astonishing 49-1.

This season, that has led -- probably unsurprisingly -- to elite results. Matthews sports a 1.33 ERA overall and a 1.02 ERA in three starts for Wichita. He's racked up at least eight strikeouts in three of his last four starts.

He's the kind of guy that hitters are told to jump on early. Because he’s going to throw you a strike.