We had a runaway for the top spot on our community list this year which was followed by a close race for the number two slot. For number three, we’re back to a runaway. This isn’t too surprising since Bobby Dalbec won the last vote in a close two-man race, so it only makes sense that the other party in that race would safely win this next vote. That other party is Bryan Mata, who takes the number three spot on our list by taking 52 percent of the vote.
Mata was not a high-profile addition to the organization when he first signed, coming in at the end of the 2015-2016 international signing period out of Venezuela for a small $25,000 signing bonus. He was originally slated to sign with the Brewers, likely for a larger bonus, but a groin injury ended that possibility. There clearly wasn’t a lot of fanfare around the righty once he arrived in Boston, but he came right in and started his professional season in that summer of 2016 in the DSL. He performed well, too, making 14 starts and tossing 61 innings with a 2.80 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 19 walks.
That performance was enough to push him up to Greenville midway through the 2017 season despite him being only 18 years old and the aforementioned lack of pedigree. This was the first sign that, perhaps, we should be keeping an eye on this kid. He didn’t really blow the doors off the South Atlantic League, but given his age it was still impressive. He ended up making 17 starts and tossing 77 innings with a 3.74 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 26 walks.
The Red Sox opted to keep aggressively pushing Mata heading into the 2018 season, having him start the year in High-A Salem. He struggled a bit there. Making 17 starts and 72 innings, his 3.50 ERA was solid. The underlying numbers were much less encouraging, though, as he struck out 61 batters and walked a whopping 58. For what it’s worth, some pointed to Mata filling out a bit, a good sign for the long run, as a big reason for the lapses in control. To make matters worse, his season ended early as a back injury in July kept him out for the rest of the year.
So, there were some questions for Mata heading into the 2019 season. Instead of continuing to push him they let him start the year back in Salem, and despite repeating the level he was still the youngest player in the Carolina League at the start of the season, which is pretty wild. He looked much better this time around. He started the year with ten starts at High-A, pitching 51 1⁄3 innings with a 1.75 ERA, 52 strikeouts and only 18 walks. That was enough to earn him a mid-season promotion to Portland. Things didn’t go as smoothly here, as he pitched to a 5.03 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 24 walks over 53 2⁄3 innings. Still, he was 20 in Double-A and the strikeout and walk numbers were fine, if not great.
The scouting side for Mata is really interesting with some pretty clear positives and negatives. On the plus side, the stuff is there. He has a big fastball that can get up in the high 90s and sits in the 94-95 range, as well as a solid curveball, a cutter that was added in 2019 and a changeup. That last pitch is a big factor in his future. On the negative side, his command can come and go and he needs it to be more consistent if he is going to stick as a starter. He’s also on the smaller side — he’s listed at 6’3, 160, though I’m not sure if that weight is still accurate — and his mechanics in the past has been worrisome. Throw in a bit of an injury history, and there is still concern that he will end up in the bullpen. The good news is, even if he does end up as a reliever he has the stuff to make an impact in that role.
Next season is going to be a really interesting one for Mata. As he is starting at Double-A, it is time for him to make the leap and start showing the consistency. He’s almost certainly not looking at major-league time in 2020, but he’s close enough that we are at the point where his major-league future is more real and less theoretical. If he doesn’t take a step forward in consistency with his command, the reliever future becomes more realistic. But if he does take that step forward, well, we could finally be looking at a good homegrown starter for the Red Sox. It’s been a while since we could say that.
Here’s our list so far:
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number two. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...