Last night the Yankees faced rookie Chris Tillman, No. 22 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects. Today they’ll drop down three spots to face Brian Matusz, No. 25. The 2008 No. 4 overall pick has had some struggles early on, but that can happen to a guy who was in the majors less than a year after he signed his first pro contract.
Matusz spent three years at the University of San Diego, and was flat out dominant in the last two. In his junior year he struck out 141 in 105 innings, walking just 22 in that span and allowing four homers. That led to a 1.71 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. In other words, he did not at all seem like an overdraft at the No. 4 spot.
After signing on the August 15 deadline, Matusz suited up for the Surprise Rafters of the Arizona Fall League. He got smacked around a little bit in the hitters’ league, allowing 16 runs, 14 earned, over 26.2 innings. He did strikeout 31 to just seven walks, but he surrendered six homers, two more than he had his entire junior season.
After that it was off to Advanced A ball, where he completely crushed the Carolina League, striking out 75 in 66.2 innings and walking just 21. That earned him a promotion to AA, where his strikeouts dipped a bit — though he was still fanning a batter an inning — but where his results improved: a 1.55 ERA through 46.1 innings. That led to his call-up on August 4, 354 days after he signed.
He got off to a rough start, allowing five runs over 2.2 innings to the Blue Jays in his second start. He’s settled down since then, especially in his last two starts, in which he’s pitched seven innings in each while keeping his pitch count under 100.
Matusz is a curveball-changeup-fastball guy with an average slider. His secondary stuff gets listed first because he leans on it more than most pitchers. His curveball is a plus pitch, though according to FanGraphs he’s used it less frequently than his changeup and slider. He throws his fastball just around 60 percent of the time. It averages around 91, though he can kiss 94 if he needs to blow it by someone. He could certainly cause trouble for the Yanks this afternoon.
On the other side, A.J. Burnett will try to replicate his last outing against Tampa Bay, only with fewer pitches. He tossed 99 through six last time out. That’s fine, but let’s see if he can go seven. Eh?
Damon is still out, but could pinch hit today and will probably start tomorrow. Ben had a David Robertson update earlier this morning.
1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Jerry Hairston, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Robinson Cano, 2B
7. Shelley Duncan, DH
8. Melky Cabrera, CF
9. Jose Molina, C
And on the mound, number thirty-four, A.J. Burnett.