Since the moment he was selected 11th overall in the 2009 MLB Draft, Tyler Matzek was the best prospect in the Rockies system. But after posting a horrific walk rate of 7.6 per 9 innings the past two seasons, he has completely fallen off the prospect map. But maybe in 2012, Matzek has finally started to piece his career together.
The surface performance for Matzek in 2012 repeating High-A Modesto has definitely been positive. He has gone 4-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts and 69 IP. But the peripherals have been a different story. Matzek has managed a nice 9.8 K/9 while allowing just 1 home run, but his walk rate has remained a disastrous 6.7. Is Matzek really just as bad as ever?
Matzek’s control issues haven’t just been lapses, they have been consistent, never-ending problems. In 18 of his 22 starts in 2011, Matzek had at least half as many walks as innings pitched and as many walks or more as innings pitched 14 times. But in 2012, Matzek has made progress. He has managed a BB/9 of 4.5 or higher in a game 8 times and a BB/9 of 9.0 or higher just 4 times. If you take out his three worst appearances, his BB/9 on the year falls to a much more respectable 4.3.
Matzek has still experienced some disaster starts, but he has been able to overcome his control issues more and more often. In 2011, Matzek had just 4 outings in which he managed a quality start with fewer walks than strikeouts. He already has 6 such outings in 2012, all of which featured a strikeout to walk ratio of 2-to-1 or better. Matzek has struck out 7 or more batters in 7 of his starts after doing so just five times in all of 2011. Matzek appears to have made a clear breakthrough.
Tyler Matzek’s repertoire remains tantalizing. He throws in the low-to-mid 90′s with his fastball with outstanding late bite. His slider looks like his fastball out of his hand before disappearing down in the zone with sharp break. His changeup, that features nice sink, has been a pitch that he has improved considerably since the draft. He throws his entire arsenal was an extremely deceptive delivery – a delivery it should be noted – that has played a part in throwing off his control. Now that his control is starting to come around, his delivery becomes just another obstacle for hitters trying to make solid contact on Matzek’s pitches.
The stuff is clearly there and the control is coming along, but Matzek doesn’t have to be a pitcher with great control to succeed. If he can just keep his walk rate at or below 4.0, he can force enough swings-and-misses and weak contact to be successful. That doesn’t seem like too lofty a goal, but the past couple of years for Matzek it certainly was. Thankfully his performance so far in 2012 has to inspire confidence and if his control turnaround is real, Matzek will be back on the path to being a pitcher with the potential to become frontline starter, and become the pitcher the Rockies thought the 21-year old would be all along.
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