Steven Matz, the preseason #33 prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus, has made noise early in the 2015 season by dominating the Pacific Coast League. The PCL, specifically Las Vegas, is one of the worst environments for a pitcher to have success in, but Matz has been unphased by the brutal park factors. Matz's 1.99 ERA is best in the PCL (min. 40 IP) and his 3.14 FIP is second best. He also leads all of AAA with a K% of 27.3%, which is especially impressive because breaking pitches don't break as sharply in that environment. In a more neutral setting, it's fair to suspect his K% would be even higher.
Matz's dominance of the PCL has led to talk of a potential promotion to the big leagues. John Harper of the New York Daily News spoke to a scout about Matz, and the scout had the following to say:
"He's ready for a higher league," a West Coast-based scout said on Wednesday. "Syndergaard was still pretty raw in Vegas last year. There’s nothing raw about Matz."
Matz won’t hit 100 mph on the radar gun as Syndergaard did pitching against Chase Utley on Wednesday, but the same scout said the lefty’s 94-95 mph two-seam fastball "moves down hard and late, and just eats hitters up."
I had the privilege of watching Matz in person face the Miami Marlins this spring training and wrote about it here. I recorded a video of that two seam fastball that the scout was speaking about; watch it eat up Martin Prado:
This is another good example of what the scout was talking about, from a start against Fresno in early April:
The Mets currently have a log jam in their starting rotation, so much so that they've decided to go to a 6 man rotation that may extend all the way until August. That doesn't bode well for Matz receiving a call up to the big league club anytime soon. But it can be argued that two of their back end options, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, are not as good as Steven Matz is right now. Both resemble below average starters in their current form. Niese's pure stuff has significantly dropped off the last two years after battling shoulder problems, and Gee's ERA- and FIP- are both below average for his career. Moving one of those two into the bullpen and sliding Matz into their rotation spot would likely improve the Mets' chances at winning this year.
That said, to quote Toby Hyde of SNY, "pitchers break, it's what they do". When teams have a pitching surplus at the MLB level, that usually doesn't last very long because somebody often gets injured.
It's unclear when exactly Matz will be called up, but he needs to be on every fantasy owner's radar for the rest of the year. When Matz finally does make it up to the big leagues, he's a strong candidate to provide an above average ERA with an above average strikeout total, with upside for more.