Monday, 12 March 2012

My Sad Little Keeper

In 2009, Brian Matusz garnered the 25th spot on Baseball America's Top-100 Prospects. Sandwiched between Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana, there were lofty expectations for the polished southpaw. After dominating Advanced-A and Double-A with 2.16 and 1.55 ERAs respectively, Matusz rocketed up prospect boards before debuting late in 2009 and accumulating a fairly mediocre 4.63 ERA but also posting an intriguing 7.66 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 along the way. Matusz would enter 2010 as Baseball America's 5th overall prospect, this time sandwiched between Jesus Montero and Desmond Jennings.

Matusz notched a 2.7 WAR in 2010 and although his numbers weren't staggering, he closed out the 2010 season better than anyone could've expected. In August, September and October, Brian Matusz posted ERAs of 2.43, 1.89 and 1.50, respectively. He barely issued one hit or walk per inning during the stretch run and posted 52 strike-outs in 62 IP.

And then, 2011 happened. 

Brian Matusz was downright awful.

In 2009, Matusz fastball and sinker averaged about 92 mph. By 2010, Matusz fastball and sinker had dropped to just over 90 mph which was reflected strongly in his whiff rates. His fastball induced a swing and miss 9% of the time in 2009 but dropped to 6.8% in 2010. Additionally, his sinker went from 7% to nearly 3% over the same span. By 2011, Matusz was only averaging 88.6 mph on the heater and 89 mph on the sinker and his swing-and-miss rates continued to topple: 4% on the Fastball and 0% on the Sinker (player card).

Fast-forward to 2012 and Spring Training is underway. While early reports should always be taken with a grain of salt, it appears as though Matusz' velocity may have returned despite his average results. In six innings, opposing hitters are still teeing off on him to the tune of a .360 batting average, but he's striking out more than a batter per inning and has yet to issue a walk. After a shaky debut, Matusz bounced back on Saturday against the Phillies. Matusz went four scoreless innings while giving up only three hits and no earned runs.

More importantly,

Matusz, whose velocity dropped into the mid-80s last season, had radar guns behind home plate consistently showing him in the 90-91-mph range, and his fastball peaked at 94 in the fourth inning.
So, that's that. I'm certainly not keeping Matusz, but he seems like a nice little gamble to rebound strongly. Heading into 2011, there was all sorts of hype around the kid because of his stellar finish to 2010. Considering that Matusz has really only established his ceiling as a low-4.00s ERA pitcher, very few fantasy baseball players are willing to gamble on him, but if his ceiling is what we saw to close out 2010, he's certainly worth a buck or two.

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