7: SP Bryan Mata
What to look for: A successful return from Tommy John surgery
Bryan Mata burst onto the Red Sox prospect radar with a breakout season in 2019. After a 2018 season in which he struggled with his control and walked over seven batters per nine innings, Mata cut that number in half the following year, allowing his elite stuff to play up. Mata posted a 1.75 ERA over ten starts at Salem and earned a midseason promotion to Double-A Portland.
Mata’s fastball is arguably the best in the Red Sox system. He features a sinking two-seamer that can touch 97 and a four-seamer that can reach triple digits. He pairs that with a slider and a changeup that can be plus pitches at times, giving him a repertoire that may already be major league ready.
The issue for Mata has always been inconsistency. He too often follows great locations with poor ones, solid outings with disasters. That unevenness plagued him again in his Double-A stint, as he had 5.03 in his 53.2 innings in Portland. Mata was expected to try his luck again at Double-A in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic wiped out his age 21 season.
Mata’s career was further decimated when he underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2021. He will return sometime this summer over two and a half years since he threw his last pitch. With a layoff that great, all Red Sox fans can hope for is that Mata still possesses a semblance of the elite stuff that once made him the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system.