Matzek Looks Sharp In Return From Blister

LOS ANGELES—The 2009 Anaheim Lions Tournament wrapped up on Wednesday night at Old Glover Stadium in Anaheim, with Mission Viejo (Calif.) High edging Capistrano Valley High (Mission Viejo, Calif.), 3-1.

Sixty scouts crammed into the 70-year-old edifice to watch top draft prospect Tyler Matzek of Capo Valley, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefthandeder. In five innings of work, Matzek allowed one run and one hit, walked three, and struck out nine.

Matzek departed after the fifth inning with the score tied, 1-1. Capo Valley’s bullpen allowed two runs in the sixth, and MIssion Viejo earned a rare but commendable milestone baseball victory. Mission Viejo has long been a dominant football program, producing former Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez, among others.

As for Matzek, he was noticeably uncomfortable during his pregame warm-up. While Glover’s playing field is well maintained, the bullpen mounds have loose, dusty dirt, making it bothersome for a pitcher to drive and land.

Continually scraping and pawing at the dirt with his feet, Matzek had difficulty keeping his balance in his bullpen, and he often peeked down at his finger to check on a blister that has hindered his recent outings.

Matzek’s woes disappeared once the game began. He blew through the first two innings, striking out five of the first six hitters with a fastball that peaked at 94 mph, sitting between 90 and 93. His curve, dreadful in the bullpen, was fairly sharp during the game, snapping sharply and clocking in at 78.

Most scouts want Matzek to improve his “pitchability”, and some believe he may need to add and develop two additional pitches. He tried a changeup in the second frame, which exhibited a fine downward plane and late arm-side movement. The pitch had the look of an experiment, and whatever it was, Matzek should keep working at that offering—it could be an excellent addition to his arsenal.

Beginning in the fourth inning, Matzek’s command began to desert him. He ran up numerous three-ball counts and walked three hitters, maintaining his velocity but not his control.

Matzek occasionally runs into problems by pulling his front side down and open at his delivery finish. He also has a habit of landing on a nearly straight front leg, and those factors force his pitches to sail up and out of the strike zone. However, it will take a pitching instructor about five minutes to fix those flaws once Matzek joins a professional organization.

Matzek is without question one of the finest high school lefthanders to come along in Southern California in many years, and his combination of raw stuff, easy arm action, competitiveness and pitching smarts should place him somewhere between the fifth and 15th overall picks in the June draft.

On the other side of Orange County, the National Classic continued. The 2009 version should be renamed the Nolan Arenado show. The El Toro High (Lake Forest, Calif.) star pitched his club into the tourney finals with a 10-1 decision over Palm Beach Central High of Wellington, Fla.. 

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) knocked off Esperanza High (Placentia, Calif.), 6-5, to garner the other finals spot. El Toro and Mater Dei will square off tonight at Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.