Though he’s pitching his second season in the Carolina League—and third year stateside overall—Mata is amazingly still just 19-years-old. He’ll turn 20 early in the 2019 season, but his experience relative to his age underlines the belief Boston has in the power-armed righty. Mata was sharp in his first outing of the year, allowing only one earned run over 5.2 innings of work. He struck out three and walked none.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds, he’s gotten stronger since signing and is now much heavier than that. Mata pitches from a full windup, breaking his hands over his head into a shoulder-led three-quarters arm-stroke. There’s some rigidity to his delivery’s finish, but the lower release point adds deception and produces heavy sink and run. The fastball touched 97 mph this look, sitting in the mid-90s. Mata relies heavily on his heater, and while it’s effective, he doesn’t rack up strikeouts with his stuff like you’d expect because of limited off-speed usage. His primary secondary pitch is a hard cutter/slider hybrid in the upper-80s, something that could develop into at least an average offering. Mata sprinkled in a handful of changeups, though his feel for it lags behind the rest of his arsenal. Throwing strikes has been a concern in the past—Mata walked nearly as many as he struck out last year—though his ability to limit free passes late into a game in this look was enthusing.
Mata’s youth gives plenty of reason to project on some of his skills moving forward. The frame and heavy mid-90s fastball are no-doubt big league tools, ones that could make him valuable in the ‘pen if his secondary and control/command don’t come around enough. He’ll get every chance to start for now, as Boston hopes the increased reps help develop more overall polish.