Steven Matz came into the 2015 season as the Mets' consensus number-two-ranked prospect and yet somehow remained underrated in some prospect circles. Oddly, everyone will get another chance at ranking Matz because he didn't end up pitching enough innings at the major league level and will retain his prospect eligibility going into 2016. His performance in 2015 at both the minor league and major league level should ensure consideration as one of the best pitching "prospects" in baseball.
Matz began the year in Las Vegas, where he pitched about as well as one could've hoped, posting a 2.19 ERA along with a 26.2% strikeout rate and an 8.6% walk rate across 14 starts. When Dillon Gee was designated for assignment, it opened a spot in the Mets six-man rotation for Matz to make his season debut, and what a debut it was. Not only did Matz toss seven-and-two-thirds innings allowing just two runs, but he also went 3-for-3, drove in four runs, and introduced us to Grandpa Matz. That's quite the afternoon.
Matz's next start came in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, where he struck out eight batters over six scoreless innings. Making it more remarkable was the fact that Matz was pitching through some lat stiffness which landed him on the disabled list for about two months. He came back in September to make four more solid starts and wrapped up his first regular season as a major leaguer with a 2.27 ERA, a 22.8% strikeout rate, and a 6.7% walk rate.
After his last start in late September, Matz's availability for the playoffs came into question after he developed some side stiffness. He ended up having to make an instructional league start down in St. Lucie before the decision was made to add him to the playoff roster. Matz pitched well enough in the playoffs, allowing a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings, but his ability to pitch deep into games may have been limited by the various injuries he sustained late in the season. He didn't make it through the sixth in any of his starts, and he hadn't pitched beyond the sixth since his June 28 debut. Still, he never allowed more than three runs in any of his postseason starts, which is impressive given the competition and his lack of experience at that level.
Mets fans have been spoiled by the quantity and quality of pitching prospects the team has ushered to the majors the last several years, and with Matz it seems like we will continue to be. Health permitting, it's hard to imagine Matz as anything less than a league average starter. And with Dan Warthen as his pitching coach, it's not unreasonable to project a ceiling of a number two-type starter. He's already begun dabbling with the vaunted Warthen Slider, and if that comes around the Mets could enter 2016 with four of the best starters in baseball.