On Saturday, Feb. 28, a highly-anticipated preseason pitching matchup featured two top prospects for the June 2009 draft: Righthander Chad Thompson of El Toro High and lefthander Tyler Matzek of Capistrano Valley High.
Saturday’s game received an unusual and elevated amount of attention and hype. The Los Angeles Times trumpeted the duel in two separate articles, and approximately 50 scouts were packed into El Toro’s cramped stands.
It was also perhaps the first preseason scrimmage game in Southern California high school baseball history to attract local television coverage.
Thompson took center stage first. Scouts have had mixed feelings about the towering 6-foot-8 righty. Some questioned the validity of readings in the Metrodome during a summer showcase, where Thompson reportedly touched 94 mph. Recent performances by Thompson were unimpressive as he showed a pedestrian 86-89 fastball combined with what could be charitably called questionable mechanics.
Thompson quickly dispelled the doubters Saturday by firing a blistering fastball that sat between 91 and 93, peaking at 94. He mixed in an intriguing change at 78 that exhibited nice arm side movement and dip.
Comparisons between Thompson and righthander Chris Tillman (Orioles No. 2 prospect) are apt. However, Tillman’s curve and mechanics were more advanced than Thompson at a similar stage. The latter’s curve is barely a wrinkle, thrown at 75 with virtually no two plane break.
Thompson’s mechanics prompt red flags from scouts. His arm action is improving noticeably, but Thompson throws across, if not around, himself, due to his habit of landing his front left foot in line with the righthanded batters box and not home plate.
In the bottom of the first, Tyler Matzek was, well . . . Tyler Matzek. He comfortably blew away the strong El Toro hitters, including Nolan Arenado, who is No. 92 on Baseball America’s High School Top 100. BA will have more on Matzek (and lefthander Tyler Skaggs) when they make their season opening starts next weekend.
Suffice it to say that Matzek painted the corners like Monet with his fastball, which ranged from 90-93, peaking at 94. His curve was a tad rusty at times, but he snapped off a few beauties at 76-77.
Saturday’s game was no doubt more important to Thompson than it was to Matzek. Matzek has little to prove to scouts, for he is possibly the finest Southern California prep lefthander since Cole Hamels.
Despite his weak curve and technical difficulties, Chad Thompson finally “arrived” Saturday—exhibiting the frame and raw arm strength scouts look for in a premium righthanded pitching prospect.