Going Young

Mets break string of college picks with lefty Steve Matz

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NEW YORK—Inside the Mets clubhouse after a 6-5 win over the rival Phillies during which Francisco Rodriguez recorded his 16th save in 16 chances, scouting director Rudy Terrasas approached the Mets closer. "We're okay giving up our first-round pick for you any day," the amateur scouting director lightheartedly told K-Rod.
The Mets didn't have a first-rounder for the third time in four years but some scouts joked that LHP Steve Matz might have been a first-rounder had his name been "Matzek." The Mets kept to Rudy Terrasas' plan of taking big, physical pitchers such as Matz, RHP David Buchanan (sixth round) and LHP Darin Gorski (seventh). This looks like another Mets draft class without players who will require significant over-slot bonuses other than Matz, who's looking for seven figures.

Having forfeited their first-round pick to the Angels to sign Rodriguez, the Mets were quite pleased when their first selection finally came around at No. 72. They selected a local product: high school lefthander Steve Matz from Ward Melville High on Long Island. The Mets, who had taken a college player with their top pick in four straight drafts, plan to assign Matz to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after he signs. He went 6-1, 0.47 through seven prep starts his senior season, allowing 11 hits while striking out 81 and walking 15 in 44 innings.

Terrasas first saw Matz pitch in the East Coast Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., before the 18-year-old southpaw's senior year.

"We're very excited to have somebody right here in our own back yard," Terrasas said. "We like the arm. We think he has a chance to be a solid pitcher for us. He's got three pitches: fastball, curveball, changeup. Just like any typical high school player, he just needs some time and experience on the mound. He pitches anywhere from 89 to 93 (mph), but he settles in around 90 mph. But, again, there's projection left with this kid."

With their second pick, the Mets selected shortstop Robbie Shields from Florida Southern in the third round (103rd overall). He first intrigued the Mets in the Cape Cod League, although he had a broken hamate bone and had to cut short his participation. He's expected to go to Brooklyn after signing. He's the highest pick from the school since Lance Niekro was a second-round selection by the Giants in 2000.

"We're really excited about this kid as well," Terrasas said. "He's a baseball player. We're going to put him in at shortstop. We feel like he can stay at shortstop. He's a guy who has a good feel and instincts for the baseball game. He's really a good baseball player. There's no real standout tool, but this guy is solid and steady."