Matuella, 20, had a 1.08 ERA with 24 strikeouts and eleven walks in 25 innings across six starts this spring. He had a limited pitch count in several games due to forearm tightness and a back issue that was eventually diagnosed as spondylolysis, a manageable vertebra defect. MLB.com ranked Matuella as the second best prospect available in this year’s draft before his elbow gave out. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:
Undrafted as a Maryland high schooler in 2012, Matuella since has emerged as the player with the highest upside in the current college crop. He can overpower hitters with his 93-97 mph fastball and make them look bad with his curveball and slider. If that’s not enough, he also demonstrates feel for his changeup and throwing strikes. His 6-foot-7 frame creates difficult plane and angle for his pitches, making him that much tougher.
As I mentioned in the Aiken post, there is plenty of recent precedent for a player with elbow ligament issues to be selected high in the draft. Just last season ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman and UNLV RHP Erick Fedde had Tommy John surgery in May only to be drafted ninth and 18th overall in June, respectively. The Yankees also selected Andrew Brackman with the 30th pick in 2007 knowing he’d likely need his elbow rebuilt shortly after the draft, which he eventually did.
Matuella seems to be exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees tend to target these days. He’s physically huge (listed at 6-foot-7 and 220 lbs.), he throws hard, and he has a history of throwing strikes (career 6.8 BB% at Duke). Unlike Brackman, Matuella isn’t splitting time between two sports and his mechanics aren’t in need of major refinement. The Yankees have the 16th overall pick and plenty of draft pool space. I prefer Aiken over Matuella as a prospect, and while Matuella’s back issue is not insignificant, rolling the dice on either would be a worthy gamble worth for the Bombers, in my opinion.