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2018 Red Sox top prospect voting: Bryan Mata is looking for his second breakout

Does Bryan Mata have another leap in him?

Bryan Mata; Photo Credit- Kelly O’Connor;

We finally had a close and exciting vote in our latest edition of this community ranking series, one that saw Tanner Houck come away with a victory, we went right back to the blowouts for the four spot. Taking a whopping 61 percent of the total votes, Bryan Mata has taken the number four spot in our OTM top-20.

For the first time in these rankings, we will not be discussing a former first round pick for the Red Sox. Instead, with Mata, we are talking about a former international amateur signee. Boston inked the right-handed pitcher out of Venezuela to a deal back in January of 2016 giving him a modest signing bonus of $25,000. As it turns out, this has been among the organization’s better low-profile international signings in recent years. Mata would end up making his professional debut with the organization later that same summer, making 14 starts in the Dominican Summer League. He was mighty impressive in those outings as a 17-year-old pitched to a 2.80 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 19 walks in 61 innings.

All of that led to some mild hype heading into the 2017 season, though it wasn’t anything too out of control. In fact, Mata didn’t even crack our own top 20 last spring. It seems silly looking back, but it sort of makes sense. We’ve seen plenty of players have success in the DSL only to be unable to carry that production over to the States. Combine that with Mata being a relatively low-profile signing along with the fact that he didn’t even start the year in full-season ball and one can understand why there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement around the young righty heading into last season.

Despite how reasonable it may have been, though, it ended up being a clear mistake. Mata was right there with Michael Chavis as the brightest start and highest riser in Boston’s farm system in 2017. Mata got the call to Greenville at the end of May and ended up making 17 starts in Low-A over the course of the season. He did virtually nothing but shine throughout the year, eventually finishing with a 3.74 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 26 walks over 77 innings of work. There were, of course, some growing pains, but that’s to be expected from an 18-year-old whose first experience pitching in the U.S. came in Low-A.

As far as the scouting reports go, they may not be quite as exciting as his combination of youth and production may suggest, but they are certainly nothing to sneeze at. For one thing, he has a strong chance of sticking as a starter given a clean delivery with three-quarter release slot along with a solid three-pitch mix. His best offering comes with his fastball. There’s not a ton of velocity here yet, but he can get into the low-to-mid 90s and there’s plenty of movement on the pitch. Mata, in case you haven’t heard, is also quite young and should fill out more, giving some potential for additional velocity. He also offers a changeup and curveball, both of which have plenty of potential but also plenty of work to be done.

Although any reasonable definition of “breakout” would consider Mata true breakout in 2017, there is a chance for him to take another step forward in 2018. One would assume the righty will be making the jump to Salem for next season, and there he will obviously find some more advanced opponents. Additionally, it will be his first chance to get through a true full season in a rotation. We’ve seen the talent, and obviously we’d like to see some growth throughout his game as well. If he’s able to show modest improvements across the board while showing that he still projects as that same solid bet to stick in the rotation, you can expect some serious national helium for Mata throughout the summer of 2018.

Four down, 16 more to go. Here’s what we have so far.

  1. Jason Groome
  2. Michael Chavis
  3. Tanner Houck
  4. Bryan Mata

Now, head down into the comments and vote for our number five prospect. As a reminder, you have to “rec” the comment corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote, and you must be a member of the site to vote. For more info on how to do that, scroll to the bottom of this post.