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Prospect Instinct | Tyler Matzek, LHP Colorado Rockies

Tyler Matzek LHP, Colorado Rockies
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 210
Won in the first round, 11th overall, by the Colorado Rockies in 2009 from Capistrano Vally High School in California, Tyler Matzek had a scholarship waiting for him at Oregon. Minutes before the signing deadline, the Rockies secured the young left-hander with a signing bonus of 3.9 million dollars, awarding Matzek the highest bonus ever paid to a player in Rockies history, beating the bounty of 2nd overall pick SP Greg Reynolds, who signed for 3.25 million dollars in 2006.

Colorado RockiesTyler made his minor league debut on May 24th of 2010 in Class-A Asheville. Giving up only 1 hit in 5 innings of work, it was a encouraging performance for a club that had invested so greatly in a talented, but raw, high school arm. His performances in Asheville were in some ways impressive and in some ways simply showed Matzek’s age. He was a 19-year-old pitching, in most cases, to hitters that were two years, and sometimes 3 years, his senior. In 89.1 innings, Tyler scored a 2.92 ERA giving up 62 hits, 29 earned runs, and 6 homeruns to go with 62 walks and 88 strikeouts. The fact that he missed bats with a 23.4% K rate was the impressive part, but 16.5% BB rate and 39% Groundball percentage showed a lack of command of the youngster’s highly-touted stuff. And even the 2.92 ERA had to be questioned due to the 4.63 FIP.  Here is what we said about Matzek in our Top 100 list at the beginning of April of 2011:

Tyler Matzek, LHP Rockies

92. Tyler Matzek SP COL – Matzek was clearly a top talent coming out of High School and it was considered a coup that the Rockies were able to sign him away from a commitment to Oregon regardless of the high bonus. Matzek has a great frame and plus plus fastball. The downside is that he doesn’t repeat his delivery and his mechanics are still a work in progress. Because of this his command suffers drastically and his development of his secondaries has not come along. Still uber toolsy so I won’t cast aside. Yet.

For 2011, Rockies management decided to test him out in High-A Modesto with the results being even less encouraging. There, he posted a 10.09 ERA with 35 hits, 37 earned runs, and 5 homeruns to go with 46 walks and 37 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. The strikeouts actually dropped to 20.8% and the walks boomed to 25.8% while he continued to put balls in the air, giving up almost as many homeruns in 33 innings pitched as he did in 89.1 innings pitched. Then, in July, came a demotion back to Asheville. The story, there, is where it becomes really interesting and we’ll pick that up in the mechanics section.

The Stuff

Fastball – Matzek’s selection in the first round of 2009 first-year draft had a lot to do with his heavy plus plus fastball. The pitch can reach the high 90s (reportedly it has hit 97 mph) and it features some natural late movement away from right-handed hitters. The deception in his delivery makes the offering appear even quicker.
Curve – Tyler trusted his slow curveball a little too much. So much that it may have hindered to development of a change-up. Reportedly, coaches took this pitch away from some time to force him toward the change. In part, some of the bad stats could be because of this move.
Slider – His slider is moving toward plus status. It shows some sharp movement, appearing to be located in the top half of the strike zone, but quickly falls away from the left-handed hitter.
Change-up – The change-up is still a work in progress. Some say he throws it too hard.
The success in development of all his pitches will be determined by how well he takes care of his big body and the honing of his mechanics.

The Mechanics

YouTube Preview Image

You can see from the video that he has a smooth delivery and good timing as he approached the plate. He isn’t as direct to the plate as he could be. You will notice that his foot plants to the first base side of the pitching rubber and causes him to throw across his body. There is a little concern for injury with this but the trade off is that he creates deception by hiding the ball better throughout his delivery. From there the fastball explodes from his hand. Another thing that you notice is that the arm slot can be irratic which changes the trajectory of the pitch and can, in some cases, tip the hitter off to a certain pitch. A repeatable arm slot is preferred.

Now, before arriving to Asheville for his demotion, during the 2011 season, Matzek actually took, a reportedly, 3-week, break from to the team to seek instruction from his youth pitching coach, Lon Fullmer who is a cerified instructor in a pitching discipline called the Marshall motion. This motion keeps the pitchers body straighter with a more direct path to the plate, comparable to how an outfielder throws. Fullmer calls what he teaches a sort of hybrid because he added a leg lift make it look more conventional. The idea is to limit the injuries that occur when a pitcher with a leg lift over-rotates his hips in a counter-clockwise direction early in the delivery. In an interview from InsidetheRockies.com, Fullmer said, “And Tyler has been falling deeper and deeper into that whereas in high school, he was pretty much aligned and straight (to home plate), and he would stay tall and rotate around his right leg, his glove-arm leg, and rotate fully through his pitch during the acceleration phase.”

Our Instinct

So what we have here, interestingly enough, is a player who needs to be coached with a different approach from any other pitcher on the staff. Asheville Pitching Coach Joey Eischen now has to become familar with new “lingo” that includes references to “drive lines” and “pronation”. And how does this change as Matzek is promoted to higher levels? Will the special treatment serve as a distraction? Colorado Rockies management seems to have gotten themselves in a situation where they have to submit to a pitching discipline that they don’t subscribe to because they draft a kid whose confidence is derived from it. I wonder if they had the choice if they would bid him away from Oregon with that record sum again. Well, I suppose that may depend on Tyler Matzek reaches his #1 starter ceiling. By all accounts, Tyler’s terrible numbers have plateaued. For the rest of the 2011 season, he increased the K rate to 26.5% and cut down his walks to a still ugly 17.9%. And, on top of that, he’s showing more confidence. Keep in mind that he is again facing less experienced competition. But 2012, will be a big step in determining what is next for the young lefty.

Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our recent article in our top 10 series: Houston Astros Top 10 Prospects List and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now atmailbag@baseballinstinct.com.

I live in Wyoming, Michigan. I have a wife and 3 kids. Been part of the Baseball Tonight league since 2004. An aspiring writer, I enjoy writing short stories, mostly horror/suspense. Anyone can check out my stuff at www.writing.com/authors/daver.


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