In the end, Dan O’Dowd got his man.
Matzek was considered one of the most difficult players in the draft to sign. Rumors swirled that he wanted “precedent setting money,” potentially upwards of $7M. While considered a top five talent, the California lefty fell to the Rockies at No. 11 due to uncertainty regarding his contract demands.
As time ran down toward the deadline, Matzek yielded and signed for significantly less than expected. While his contract is considerably higher than MLB’s recommended slot value for the No. 11 pick, the Rockies management team should be pleased to have signed such a valuable player without having to over commit.
At 6-3 and 185 lbs, the 18 year old Matzek has the potential to throw at least three plus pitches in the major leagues, including a mid to high 90s fastball. He commands both a curve and a slider well, though both pitches will need refinement in the minors.
Matzek’s control has been somewhat suspect, but he did enough late in his final high school season to prove he wasn’t merely throwing to the gun. Outside of his contract demands, most thought Matzek was one of the better all around packages available in the draft.
With the Matzek signing, the Rockies improve dramatically on an already impressive 2009 draft haul. The team signed outfielder Tim Wheeler and righthander Rex Brothers (the team’s other first rounder and supplemental rounder, respectively) more than a month ago and both have been playing for short season Tri City.
Wheeler started hot but has since cooled and ended play Monday with a line of .263/.338/.361. Brothers was 2-0 with Tri City before being called up to High A-Asheville. All three players were considered legitimate first round talents.
Matzek is a remarkable addition to the Rockies’ top prospect list, a group that is highlighted by a number of high upside pitching talents. Besides Jhoulys Chacin, who recently made his major league debut with Colorado, the Rockies also have lefty Christian Friedrich who is on the short list to receive MiLB Player of the Year honors.
Matzek will likely slot behind those two as the Rockies third best prospect, directly ahead of right hander Esmil Rogers and second baseman Eric Young Jr. Taken together, the Rockies likely will have at least three top 100 prospects, with the possibility of putting two more on the list before the start of next season.
Expect Matzek to report to Tri City sometime next week, where he will be thrown into the midst of his first professional playoff push. The Dust Devils currently lead the Eastern Division of the Northwest League and will likely play it out for the championship in early September.