Draft Prospect: Tyler Matzek, LHP, Capistrano Valley HS

Unlike Matthew Purke, Tyler Matzek is routinely regarded as a pitcher with an easy, repeatable delivery. Matzek is able to throw 90-94 mph with ease and has recently been as high as 98 mph according to several reports. He throws a curveball that has plus potential, but scouts from the Major League Scouting Bureau have a lesser opinion of its current quality than Baseball America does.

Dr. Mike Marshall weighed in on Matzek in his Questions/Answers 2009 file. If you are at all familiar with Dr. Marshall's view of the 'traditional' pitching motion, you'll recognize that his comments border on praise. Dr. Marshall had the following to say:

Mr. Matzek’s version of the ‘traditional’ baseball pitching motion is not as injurious as many I have seen... I doubt that he will suffer a serious pitching injury. However, he will never be as good as he should have been.

As with Purke, I was intrigued by the generic mechanical comments I'd read in scouting reports. This time, though, the comments were about an easy, repeatable delivery. The comments from Dr. Marshall further piqued my interest. I dug around and found a video similar to the one I used for my Purke article.

Here's the video I looked at, courtesy again of Baseball Factory:

Even though it's a warm-up pitch, I chose to use the first pitch in the video as my example. The stills in the two images below were taken from this same pitch.

Important stages of Matzek's arm action. Click to view larger image.

In the first frame, you can clearly see that Matzek takes the ball primarily toward second base during his pick-up. If you looked at my review of Purke's mechanics, you'll remember that he took the ball primarily toward third base. Skipping ahead to the fourth frame (approximately the release point), you can see that Matzek has much less side-to-side movement than Purke. His driveline to the plate is very direct compared to most 'traditional' pitchers, extremely efficient.

The second frame shows Matzek's body position at foot-plant, in the 'traditional' cocked position, where he seems to have a nearly straight-forward stride. At 90° of flexion, the ulnar collateral ligament is at its most vulnerable. At this stage Matzek's arm is fairly straight, so the late forearm turnover and reverse forearm bounce that follow are less of a problem. This is part of why Dr. Marshall views Matzek's arm action as less injurious.

As Matzek increases his elbow flexion, he also tilts his shoulders to the glove side and raises his elbow. This action helps limit his forearm flyout by effectively straighening his elbow's path. At his approximate release point, you can see that his forearm is nearly vertical.

In the video Dr. Marshall reviewed (of a side session), he mentioned that he was concerned about Matzek's forearm flyout. The video that I reviewed seems to show that Matzek's forearm flyout is minimal.

Matzek's follow-through from release to finish. Click to view larger image.

The first frame in this image is from shortly after release. Matzek's elbow is flexed and his wrist is pronated to the point where his palm is nearly facing up. This indicates two things: (1) Matzek pronates his release very powerfully, and (2) Matzek may be using his latissimus dorsi to internally rotate his arm instead of using his pectoralis major to horizontally flex his arm.

At this normal frame rate, it is practically impossible to tell for certain whether or not Matzek pronates into release, but he sure appears to be doing so.

Dr. Marshall says that because Matzek's stride is "too closed," he must be using his pectoralis major to horizontally flex his pitching arm. If he were actually horizontally flexing his arm to throw the baseball, I don't believe that Matzek could achieve the arm position shown in the first frame of this image.

By the second frame, his primary arm deceleration phase is done. The continuation of his body action in the next two frames causes his arm to wrap across his body. I believe the appearance of recoil is an illusion created when Matzek stands up to field his position.

So... what are you saying?

Matzek throws some high-quality pitches from a relatively safe, easy, and repeatable delivery. From an objective perspective, there are fewer risk factors than most 'traditional' pitchers. For a high school pitcher, he's a lot more polished than I would have expected.

I have reason to believe that he throws three different fastballs and a pronated curveball. After doing my research, I like him more than I did, and I'm kind of upset that there's no chance he'll be around when the Texas Rangers pick at #14. I guess I can hope, though.

You might also want to check out dirtberry's YouTube channel for more on Tyler Matzek.