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Bryan Mata Bouncing Back Strong In 2019

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Boston Red Sox

Righthander Bryan Mata entered 2018 as one of the best starting pitching prospects in the Red Sox system, but a combination of severe control woes to the start of the season and a back injury that effectively wiped out his season following the Futures Game left that status in doubt.

In 2019, however, he’s re-established his prospect path to emerge as perhaps the pitcher with the clearest path to a starter's role within the Red Sox's organization.

Although Mata, who turned 20 this past May, missed a month earlier this season with a mild right shoulder strain, he's been overpowering with high Class A Salem when he's been on the mound in 2019. His steadily increasing fastball velocity has continued to tick up, with the righthander now topping out at 98 mph and sitting comfortably in the mid-90s with both his four- and two-seam fastballs, which he uses the spread the zone.

“I think one of the troubles he had last year was that he was just throwing harder than he ever had before," Red Sox pitching coordinator of performance Dave Bush said. "As he was getting older and bigger and stronger, it was hard to control the ball sometimes. But it seems like he’s settled in quite a bit this year."

Mata's two-seam fastball—a pitch with enough movement that it led to command struggles as he worked to incorporate it in 2018—has anchored a repertoire that opposing hitters haven’t been able to barrel. Through his first nine starts in 2019, Mata had a remarkable 67 percent groundball rate while allowing just one home run in 45.1 innings, which is consistent with a minor league career in which he’s yielded just 0.2 homers per nine innings.

“[The two-seamer] is not a sinker but doesn’t have to be,” said Bush. “He’s continued to develop it.”

Mata has also gone from using a curveball as his primary breaking ball to using a cutter/slider that has produced plenty of swings and misses in Salem. He has a 23.9 percent strikeout rate, and he has cut his walk rate by more than 50 percent, going from 17.7 percent during his 2018 struggles to 8.0 percent in 2019.

With a changeup to round out his pitch mix and attack all parts of the zone, Mata shows the repertoire of a mid-rotation starter if he can remain healthy, however, he’s yet to throw more than 77 innings in a professional season.

SOX YARNS

— On June 6, DSL outfielder Albert Feliz, 17, hit three home runs and a double. The righthanded hitter’s double hit the top of the fence in right-center field.

— Lefthander Jay Groome threw off a mound in late June for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

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Baseball America Prospect Report -- October 25, 2019

Nick Neidert, Royce Lewis and Bryan Mata headline Friday's MLB prospects report.

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