The Arizona Diamondbacks are taking a chance on Tyler Matzek, a once top prospect whose battle with anxiety is ongoing.
Matzek is a big lefty (6’3″, 230 lbs.) who was once a highly regarded prospect in the Rockies’ system. Colorado drafted him #11 overall in the 2009 June draft, the same year the Diamondbacks selected Bobby Borchering at #16 and A.J. Pollock at #17. Our old pal Shelby Miller went #19 to the Cardinals as well.
All in all, this was a relatively disappointing draft, at least for the top picks outside of Stephen Strasburg at #1. Of course, it can’t really be considered a dud draft, as the Angels selected Mike Trout at #25 overall.
Matzek, a California native, was the second left-hander taken that year, behind only Mike Minor of the Braves. Minor, of course, recently rebooted his career as a reliever for the Royals in 2017, three seasons after he made his last appearance for the Braves in 2014.
Matzek will be hoping for a similar reclamation story. Remember, Matzek put together a relatively promising rookie season, 6-11 with a 4.05 ERA (3.78 FIP) across 19 starts, which is not easy to do when your home park is Coors Field.
Of course, that was in 2014 was he was 23-years-old. He’s 28 now and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2015 when he gave up 7.8 BB/9 across five April starts before being sent down. Matzek was soon after diagnosed with anxiety and placed on the temporarily inactive list. When he returned, control issues continued to plague him on the mound until he was outrighted and elected free agency after the 2016 season.
He made a go of it in spring camp with the White Sox in 2017, and again with the Mariners in 2018, but he has yet to make his way all the way back to the majors, though he still possesses a big arm, recording 9.44 K/9 in the independent league last season. Of course, his control problems persisted as well as he surrendered 6.7 BB/9. He made 14 starts in total while pitching to a 5.88 ERA with the Texas AirHogs.
The Diamondbacks are a good squad for Matzek to catch on with for the spring, both because of the opportunities available, but also because of the presence of Zack Greinke (at least for now). Greinke’s struggles with anxiety are well-documented, and while there are many players who battle anxiety, few have had to do so as publicly as Greinke.
Tyler Matzek is a long shot to make the Arizona Diamondbacks opening day roster. He’s a Hail Mary. In all likelihood, Matzek won’t remain with the club beyond spring training, but it’s a good signing nonetheless. There is no risk from the Diamondbacks perspective, and if somehow they are able to harness his physical abilities and overcome some of the control issues, it would make for a heck of a story.