Name: Matt Cleveland
Height/Weight: 6'5"/200 lbs
School: Windsor High School (Windsor, Connecticut)
With a family hailing from the Bronx, Matt Cleveland's ultimate baseball dream is to be on the mound at Yankee Stadium. Coach Joe Serfass—who, as some may recall, pitched in the Mets' minor league system between 2004 and 2007, reaching as high as Double-A Binghamton—has helped mentor Cleveland over his career at Windsor High School to the point that his dream may someday be a possibility.
Coming into the season, the right-hander was ranked the top high school prospect in all of New England, and one of the best high school prospects nationally. In his final season, Cleveland went 2-3 with a 2.07 ERA in 30.1 innings, striking out 41 and walking 23. He has already committed to Florida Southwestern, a junior college in Fort Myers, but the Mets will do their best to dissuade the youngster from attending school. From a baseball perspective, signing with the team may be the best decision for his professional career, as Matt Cleveland is a project.
Cleveland has a clean arm action, with a full arm circle and length in the back. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot, slinging the ball and finishing cleanly towards the batter. His delivery is somewhat slow and deliberate, leaving him in good fielding position.
His fastball generally sits in the low 90s, and has touched the mid-90s. At times over the course of his 2016 season, his fastball velocity backed up, sitting in the upper 80s. Part of that may be due to inconsistent mechanics, but it may also be somehow related to an undisclosed injury that forced the right-hander to leave the team in late May. As Cleveland grows and adds additional muscle and mass, and works out some of the kinks in his delivery—such as speeding it up—some believe the right-hander will be able to touch the upper-90s with his heater.
Though he has improved on such impulses as he has matured as a baseball player, Cleveland is still more of a thrower than a pitcher. His fastball is beyond what most high school players can handle, and as such, the right-hander has relied on it to dispatch his opponents rather than test himself and develop secondary pitches. The former Windsor High Warrior has virtually no breaking ball to speak of. The closest thing he has is a slider that has practically no bite to it and barely breaks that he throws in the dirt to get batters to fish. He occasionally mixes in a changeup, but rarely throws the pitch.
If all goes well in his baseball development, Cleveland may be able to one day pitch on the mound at Yankee Stadium, but in one of the many cruel ironies of life, it may be wearing the orange and blue, pitching against them.