Steven Matz’s Timeline After Zack Wheeler’s Injury

Losing a young pitcher like Zack Wheeler is never an easy thing, but there are not too many teams positioned well enough to handle a season-long injury to a young starter as well as the Mets. The Mets have three top-10 prospects that could conceivably fill in for Wheeler right now, though the likelihood is that Dillon Gee is given an opportunity to eat innings in the back end of the rotation while the prospects continue to develop in the minors.

The prospect this article will focus on is Steven Matz. Even though Wheeler’s injury may move up Matz’s timeline a tad, there are still likely three pitchers ahead of him on the current depth chart. Gee, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero are all likely ahead of Matz on the depth chart currently. That has the possibility of changing quickly once the season gets going. Pitcher injuries happen frequently and the Mets are currently carrying a 40-year-old and a player coming off Tommy John surgery in their rotation, so even if Syndergaard gets the first chance to step into the rotation when the season gets going, it is certainly plausible that Matz gets his shot sometime this season.

I expect Matz to continue to pitch well in the minors and eventually earn a shot in the majors this season, but given the team’s depth and youth I do not expect him to be relevant soon in any mixed leagues. Those in longer term leagues should take note to Matz’s dominance last year and his progression through the minor league system.

ZiPS would expect Matz to be the team’s fourth best starter this year (now that Wheeler is not being included for this year), behind Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard. According to ZiPS ERA+ estimate, Matz would be exactly league average and over the course of 142 innings would accumulate roughly 1.8 WAR – which is exactly what Wheeler produced in 2014. That is pretty high regard for a player with only 12 major league starts. Matz has previously missed years due to Tommy John surgery and age wise he is likely ready to make the jump to the majors, but his lack of appearances in the upper minors is holding him back.

The Mets have been asked if Matz would get a look in the bullpen considering the injuries they have already been hit with in the left side of their bullpen, and while Matz stated he would be comfortable filling in as a reliever the team said that is not in the plans. The Mets are going to do everything they can to make Matz a starter because they are confident in his ability to pound the zone with an impressive fastball and to improve upon his secondary offerings enough to become at least a reliable middle-of-the rotation starter. Our own Kiley McDaniel stated similar sentiments in his evaluation of Matz (and the rest of the Mets top prospects) earlier this winter.

I like Matz a bit more than that due to the upside. I actually think there is front end potential here given his command and strikeout potential that has shown over the past two seasons. He has a solid size, athleticism, and was a former second round draft pick. He has the tools to become a very impressive major league starter and he has produced like a guy that will develop into such since recovering from his injury. Dynasty and deep keeper league owners should be fawning after a guy with his upside. Injury risks are likely the biggest thing keeping him down value wise, and I think leveraging that fact into acquiring him from another owner in dynasty formats is a great tool.

After making a number of top 100 lists this year, Matz is far from a sleeper, but on a team that boasts young starters like Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom, the now injured Zack Wheeler, and top prospect Noah Syndergaard, Matz goes relatively under the radar. It would not surprise me at all if Matz ended up being the second most valuable pitcher in this group over the course of his career, behind only Harvey. At the same time, he has a great chance of being the worst of the group as well, as his likely floor is middle relief lefty. While there is risk with Matz, I like the upside enough to acquire him and I am actually expecting him to be useful as soon as this season. Wheeler’s injury is unfortunate for the Mets, but having a guy like Matz to turn to eases that pain a bit. Fantasy owners in long term leagues should be taking a similar approach with a guy like Matz. When injuries and poor performance hurt your team, it will be nice to have a guy like Matz to turn to when he proves his readiness.

Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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7 years ago

Let’s Go Matz!