There ain’t enough room in this town for the both of ‘em! Well, New York has two baseball teams and ten rotation spots between them, so maybe there is. But they can’t both dominate the back pages of the New York papers! I guess they can on different days. But only one can be the talk of the town! Eh, it is a pretty big “town,” both of them can generate plenty of talk. It is the fan rivalry that really matters though! Mets fans cannot stand the Yankees and Yankees fans cannot sta … well actually, Yankees fans don’t really care about the Mets. Damn it! It should be a lot easier to drum up some drama over this. One last try:
NEW YORK!!! METS’ PHENOM PROSPECT VS. YANKEES’ PITCHING PRODIGY! ONLY ONE CAN PREVAIL!
That will have to do.
Steven Matz: Baseball America ranked Matz the 33rd best prospect in baseball coming into the 2015 season. He went on to dominate Triple-A in the Pacific Coast League, a league notorious for being very tough on pitchers. This earned him a call up to the big leagues, where he put up a miniscule 2.27 ERA, striking out 34 batters in 35.2 innings pitched. A big lefty, with a prototypical pitcher’s build (6’2’’, 200 pounds), Matz’s electric stuff backs up the early results. His 95 MPH fastball is the first thing to jump out at you, but he compliments that with a plus curveball and change-up.
Matz does not come without a few red flags. His injury history being the most concerning. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, and didn’t become symptom-free for two years. Don’t believe me? Matz told a reporter earlier this year, “I had the surgery on May 18, 2010. I didn’t become symptom-free for two years.” Because of the injury setbacks, Matz was considered old (as far as top prospects go) at each of his minor league stops, delaying his major league debut until he was 24 years old. The injury bug has already hit Matz in the majors. He missed six weeks with a torn lat muscle towards the end of last year.
Luis Severino: Baseball America ranked Severino the 35th best prospect in baseball coming into the 2015 season. Like Matz, after dominating in the minors to start the year, Severino did not miss a beat once getting called up. He pitched to a 2.89 ERA, striking out 56 batters in 62.1 innings pitched. He also throws a big, 95 MPH fastball, complimented by a plus slider and developing change-up.
Unlike Matz, Severino made his major league debut as a 21-year-old, with a spotless record of health. He also entered a much tougher pitching environment. The AL East scored the most runs in baseball last year, and Yankee Stadium is notoriously tough on right-handed pitchers. Matz pitched in a pitcher’s park (Citi Field), against the weakest hitting division in baseball (NL East), and in a league where the pitcher hits (NL).
Severino is not without his warts either. Listed at 6’0’’, 195 pounds, he is considered undersized to be a major league starter. Compounding this issue, he does not utilize the lower half of his body enough during his delivery. This results in putting excess stress on his arm to generate most of his power, increasing the risk of an arm-related injury. Severino is also more raw than Matz, as his secondary pitches are not as refined and consistent.
Verdict: For fantasy baseball, Matz is the guy you want. The far superior pitching conditions he will face makes that an easy call. In real life, Severino gets the slight edge. His spotless track record of health, compared to Matz’s littered injury history, is too much to ignore. Nothing is more important than a pitcher’s health. For 2016, I will give Matz a projection of 3.49/1.23/156 in 160 IP. I will give Severino the projection of 3.68/1.26/158 in 175 IP. Long term, both project as top-of-the-rotation starters.
By Michael Halpern