Who will the Nats take with their second pick? Tyler Matzek

While everybody has accepted that the Nationals will take Steven Strasburg with the number one overall pick June 9th, often overlooked has been the Nationals next pick. For failing to sign Aaron Crow in 2008, the Nats received a compensatory pick at the 10 spot in this years draft. So essentially the Nats have two ‘lottery’ picks in 2009. Over the next several days I will go over a few possibilities of who they may draft.

Today: Tyler Matzek

It seems much of the talent that the Nationals are scouting for their two top-10 picks in the upcoming draft hail from the great state of California. Whether it be the obvious number-one of Steven Strasburg, last weeks pick number 10 candidate Grant Green, or this weeks candidate Tyler Matzek, it seems California is a true hotbed for talent.

Matzek is a hard throwing lefty who is currently a senior for the Capistrano Valley Cougars. At first glance, Matzek stands 6’ 3”, 215 pounds and looks like your typical hard throwing high school prospect looking to sign a division one contract.  He packs much more in that frame however.

There are two things that separate Matzek from being a great high school pitching prospect and being the best. The first thing is velocity.

Matzek improved from throwing consistently in the high 80’s his junior year to a fastball that sits at about 91 even into later innings as a senior. This kind of escalation often draws attention of scouts, most high schoolers can not hit 90 on the gun consistently, certainly not with good accuracy. Steven Strasburg himself could barley hit 90 in high school, a large reason for him attending San Diego State in the first place.

What makes Matzek’s velocity so impressive however isn’t the age at which it has developed, but the fact that he’s a lefty. Not many lefty’s have overwhelming power, and most make it to the majors with solid velocity and great secondary pitches. Lefty’s, unlike righty’s, have great natural movement on their fastballs, when you add velocity they can be very difficult to hit.

Matzek has also shown the ability to gas it up, pushing his fastball to as high as 96 during a team trip to Florida in the spring.

The second thing that separates Matzek from other good pitching prospects is his mastery of his secondary pitches. The big lefty throws a very good curve that while it is not yet Major League polished, it has the ability to freeze hitters with his power fastball. He also throws a very solid slider which sits between 79-84 MPH and projects as a plus pitch. Matzek also has a change-up, although he is not often forced to throw it against lower level competition, and he is developing a two seem fastball to induce groundballs against better level hitting.

So far this senior year Matzek has pitched 78.1 innings and has posted a 1.07 ERA with a .153 opposing batting average. He has struck out 97 while walking 28. At the plate he has been nearly as impressive, batting .381 with 5 homers and 26 RBI.

While he is not the best pitcher in this draft, or the best talent, he may very well be the second best of both. Strasburg has a complete stranglehold on all hype regarding pitching talent in the first round of this years draft, and rightfully so, however Matzek’s future is no joke. Given the right upbringing it would not be too unlikely to see him break into the big leagues by the age of 22, or even earlier if he develops fast enough.

The Nats selection of Matzek would certainly make them pitching prospect heavy. They already have four rookie starters in the Major Leagues with Zimmermann, Martis, Detwiler, and Stammen, and with the pick of Steven Strasburg they will have one more very close by. However pitching prospects don’t always pan out, and many argue because of this you can’t have too many. Perhaps he becomes a closer down the line, perhaps he just becomes that much better than the Nats currently breaking into the bigs today.

The bottom line is, the Nats shouldn’t hesitate to take Matzek, and should bank on his great future and upside.