In a move that won’t make headlines, but could have an impact on roster construction in September, and maybe beyond, the Braves purchased the contract of Tyler Matzek out of an Independent League on August 16. Matzek was drafted 11th overall in the 2009 draft by the Colorado Rockies. In 2014, Matzek had a very promising rookie year pitching 117.2 innings of 4.05 ERA ball that also boasted a near 50% groundball rate. Needless to say, that debut helped pencil his name in for the 2015 rotation and the future looked bright for Matzek. However, on April 21st, his 3rd start in 2015, Matzek walked 6 in 5 innings…and then the wheels fell off.
After 2 more starts, Matzek’s tenure in the MLB came to a close. It was May 6th, and Matzek only made it through 2 innings and walked 6. He made his next start at AAA where he walked 7 in 1 inning. It was a nightmare scenario that just continued for Matzek as he only pitched 12.2 innings the rest of that year, all in the minors, and never got over the hump of allowing hitters to walk freely to first. The free pass plague continued in 2016 as he allowed 33 walks in 26.2 innings, and then…
Unfortunately for Matzek, it was never about talent, rather a battle with performance anxiety that is said to be ongoing. I’m not going to pretend to know what that’s about nor try to diagnose Matzek myself, but from things I’ve read, it looks like he’s in a good spot mentally to get back to doing what he does best and that is sending people back to the dugout.
Matzek appeared in spring training for the Mariners in 2016, the White Sox in 2017 and the Diamondbacks earlier this year, but he’s yet to get close to being back to the majors and until this year, hasn’t even been given a shot in the minors since 2016. However, the Braves signed him and put him down in AA to get going. I’ve got reason to believe that Matzek might make a good case for himself to be considered for September, and all my reasoning comes from a decision that Matzek made at the turn of the year:
He went to Driveline.
Driveline, from the everyday viewer, seems mostly focused on righting mechanics to get better velo but that is not their mission in full. Driveline does focus on mechanics and velo but they also focus on the quality of pitch and spin rate by way of “Magnus Force”. They’ve nearly been solely responsible for spin rate talk making its way into MLB broadcasts. Matzek’s visit to Driveline this year produced a spike in his spin rate which is a wonderful turn of events for a pitcher that doesn’t rely on an upper-90s heater. To win in this current game, movement is key and if Matzek’s 2.1 innings at Mississippi with 5Ks and 0BBs is a reflection of this newly found spin rate, it might be worth keeping an eye or 2 on Matzek as the Braves sure do need an effective lefty or 2 in their bullpen.
Looking ahead to the September Roster
As of now, the Braves only have Jerry Blevins, AJ Minter, and Sean Newcomb from the 40-man as LH options out of the bullpen and that hardly leaves me in comfort, especially if the Braves end up facing the Dodgers in the NL Championship. There’s no doubt eyes will be on DFA’d lefties as well as internal guys such as Corbin Clouse, Thomas Burrows, and Tucker Davidson to fill potential needs.