High School | Blog | 3/10/2009

SoCal Pitching Trio Excites Scouts Early

David Rawnsley        

I’ve talked to a number of people in Southern California that last few days and, after they get done talking about Stephen Strasburg, the topic that seems to come up right away is the high school “pitching triangle” of Tyler Matzek, Tyler Skaggs and Chad Thompson.

There is some symmetry that brings these three together besides talent and geography. You’ve got the twin lefties to compare, you’ve got the twin Tyler’s to compare and Thompson and Matzek faced off against each other in a pre-season scrimmage.

Matzek and Thompson were both Aflac All-American picks last summer, although there were some eye brows raised about Thompson that have since been lowered. Skaggs didn’t start showing upper round stuff until the fall, he was 86-88 mph at the Area Code Games just preceding the Aflac festivities in August and didn’t really wow scouts until Jupiter.

In a nutshell, here is how each pitcher has thrown early on:

Matzek: Solid performances, pitching pretty consistently at 91 mph, has touched 93-94 mph occasionally but rarely, has not shown the type of command or off speed consistency that scouts are looking for in a potential top half of the first round pick.

Thompson: Most SoCal scouts had only seen 86-90 mph before, while PG scouts had seen 93 more than once, so it was a surprise to the locals that the 6-8 Thompson has been sitting at 92-93 mph and touching 95 early. His split finger is a solid second pitch but his breaking ball is still a work in progress.

Skaggs: Skaggs has solidified the buzz he created in Jupiter by maintain the 89-92 mph fastball and his loose, easy delivery. His slow curveball still spins well and gets outs, he can mix and match his pitches with maturity and his broad shouldered 6-5, 180 lb build excites projection.

To hear people talk, you’d think that there is a dead heat on these three right now. I would respectfully disagree. The reason? You don’t have to project Matzek to do anything but what young pitchers all need to do when the reach the next level; gain consistency and command.

For me there’s now question that Matzek is still the guy.

Matzek already throws 91-94 mph and can maintain it over the course of an entire game. His last pitch in a 7 inning complete game last week was 93 mph. He has shown two quality breaking balls in the past, especially is slider, and has shown a solid change up. He’s also arguably the best athlete of the trio and is definitely the most physically mature.

Thompson’s velocity is impressive and it would surprise no one at this point if he ends up with the best consistent fastball velocity of the three. He has also shown a good idea how to pitch with that fastball. The split change is the best change up of the three, also. But Thompson has not shown any real ability to spin the ball and I can hear the talk in scouting war rooms in late May already “How can you pick a kid in the first round who hasn’t shown he can spin the ball?”

I personally don’t think Skaggs is as projectable as most seem to think as far as his velocity goes. He’s a bit of a pie thrower and looks like the type to me who is always going to be skinny. His 65-70 mph curveball is a weapon at this level and he has outstanding command and feel for the pitch, but it’s not a present pitch at the next level until he’s throwing it significantly harder.

I guess if you had to rank them in a number of categories, you get something like this (from best to worst)

Strength/Maturity: Matzek, Thompson, Skaggs

Athletic Ability: Matzek, Thompson, Skaggs

Present Mechanics: No major differential

Health Issues: Clean on all accounts

Present Fastball: Matzek, Thompson, Skaggs

Present Breaking Ball: Matzek, Skaggs, Thompson

Present Change Up: Thompson, Skaggs, Matzek

Command/Pitchability: Skaggs, Thompson, Matzek

Projectability: Skaggs, Thompson, Matzek

If I was a scouting director based on what I know right now, the way I’d pick them is: Matzek, Thompson, Skaggs.

Certainly, though, no scouting director is going to pass on the chance to get them in the right spot and that spot is going to be very high in the draft.

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