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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Bryan Mata is looking to come back strong

Two consecutive Br(a)yans!

Bryan Mata at the Alternate Site in 2020
Kelly O’Connor

Looking at the Boston Red Sox farm system right now after a handful of national evaluators have ranked the system, it’s clear that there is basically a consensus top five. It is the same top five as our community list — Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, Jarren Duran, and Brayan Bello — with the order varying from site to site. After that fifth spot, most of the lists have had the same number six as well, though our community list has bucked that trend with a different name jumping up to six. It wasn’t quite as much of a blowout as some of the other recent votes, but right-handed pitcher Bryan Mata still won relatively handily, grabbing 42% of the vote.

Coming out of Venezuela, Mata had some issues right from the jump as he was set to sign with the Brewers before a groin injury scared them off. The Red Sox took advantage of that and signed him to a low $25,000 bonus in January of 2016. From there, the young righty didn’t waste much time making a name for himself in the lower levels. He ended up in the Dominican Summer League that same summer after he signed, making 14 excellent starts in which he pitched to a 2.80 ERA over 61 innings while striking out 61 as well.

After that strong showing in his professional debut, the Red Sox were aggressive with Mata, sending him to full season ball, albeit not for the full season. Instead, they had him hang back in extended spring training for the first six weeks or so of the season before throwing him into the fire in A-Ball. That challenge was not much of one for the young Mata, as he continued to impress and pitched to a 3.74 ERA with almost a strikeout per inning in Greenville.

All of that served to make him one of the most interesting prospects in the system heading into the 2018 season, when he’d be sent to High-A to start his age-19 season. Once again he held his own against after a relatively aggressive placement, pitching to a 3.50 ERA over 72 innings, though his strikeout and walk numbers were considerably worse. That was not the big concern in that season, though, as he missed essentially the entire second half due to a back injury.

With the injury behind him heading into the 2019 season, Mata was again put in High-A with the organization looking for similar results with better peripherals. The righty delivered. Making 10 starts back at Salem, he pitched to an incredible 1.50 ERA with a 52/19 strikeout to walk ratio. It was enough to get him a bump up to Double-A Portland for the latter portion of that season, where he struggled a bit with an ERA over 5.00 and some control issues, though he did continue to strike out over a batter per inning. Injury issues also cropped up again with Mata missing about a month with a shoulder issue.

After making some appearances at the Alternate Site in 2020 (pictured above), he was once again one of the more anticipated prospects in 2021 with an outside chance of making his debut later in the year if everything broke right. Instead, everything broke wrong. Mata suffered the worst injury of his career to date during spring training and ultimately had to undergo Tommy John surgery in April of last year.

With the caveat that one can never be totally sure what a pitcher is going to look like after undergoing Tommy John, even with the better success rates in today’s era of baseball, Mata still has all of the tools that make him an exciting pitcher. His stuff should be able to miss bats at the highest level, equipped with a fastball that can sit in the upper 90s and get up near triple digits when he needs it, along with a curveball, slider, and changeup. The slider is his newest offering, but it could end up being his best secondary.

The arsenal is there for him to stick as a starter long term, but it’s still up in the air as to whether or not he will be able to do so. One of the issues is his control and general command, as it has ebbed and flowed throughout his career. In that 2018 season, for example, he walked a whopping 17.7 percent of his opponents, but when he repeated the level the following season he brought that all the way down to 8.3 percent. Injuries are also obviously a concern. To his credit, Mata has added some bulk and cleaned up his delivery a bit, but the old adage is that the best indicator for future injury is past injury, and Mata has an extensive history.

Still, the good news is that he should at least be able to stick as a solid reliever even if starting doesn’t work out, though we also shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. Tommy John recovery is not a sure thing, but the track record right now is good and Mata should be able to get back on the mound later this season. Undergoing surgery in April, the typical Tommy John timeline would have him back anywhere from April to the end of the season, hopefully with that skewing towards the early part of that range. This season will be about getting his rhythm back whenever he can return to try and start his big-league career in earnest in 2023.

Here is our full list so far:

  1. Triston Casas, 1B
  2. Marcelo Mayer, SS
  3. Nick Yorke, 2B
  4. Jarren Duran, OF
  5. Brayan Bello, RHP
  6. Bryan Mata, RHP

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number seven prospect. 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. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...