The Mets did not own a first-round pick in this year’s amateur draft, having surrendered it to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in return for signing Francisco Rodriguez. However, they drafted a first-round talent with their late second-round (72nd overall) choice: local boy Steven Matz of East Setauket, NY.
Matz is a rangy, 6’3″, lefthanded pitcher with a 90-MPH fastball and good rotation on an overhand curve. He dominated while hurling for Ward Melville High School, striking out 81 in 44 innings, allowing just 11 hits. And so the legend begins … or will it?
How could a southpaw with those stats fall all the way to the 72nd choice? Signability, of course. The 18-year-old is committed to Coastal Carolina, where coach Gary Gilmore believes Matz “can do for this program and maybe more than what Kirt Manwaring did for it.”
That’s a telling statement. If you don’t know / remember Kirt Manwaring, he was a longtime MLB catcher from 1987-1999 and a one-time Gold Glove winner, and his MLB status put the CC baseball program on the map. (Ironically, Manwaring is also a New York native, from Elmira.) In other words, Matz is already being counted on to be “the face of the program”, and will need to be overwhelmed to renounce his commitment to Coastal Carolina — to the tune of one million dollars.
Will the Mets be willing to go that high? You’d have to think so, considering that, if they had a first-round pick, they’d have to spend at least that much. But, they’ve traditionally played the role of good soldier and followed Herr Selig’s slotting system, and the commissioner / MCP has reportedly cut the “recommended” bonuses by ten percent this year. A million bucks is probably above the “slot” for a late second round pick — will the Mets be so bold as to buck the Budsystem and shell out the dough to sign their next Scott Kazmir?
Considering that the Mets have been harshly criticized by several media pundits for their steadfast refusal to go against the slotting guidelines, they may break the rules this year for no other reason than to quiet the critics (not unlike last year’s media-driven play of promoting Nick Evans and Dan Murphy from AA as a response to Baseball America’s negative analysis of the Mets’ farm system). Hey, if that’s what it takes to sign a lanky local lefty with a promising future, so be it. The Mets need all the young arms they can find, and Steven Matz would provide both a legit talent and a good story to follow.