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April 10, 2023 at 9:00 AM

Notes from the Field: Bryan Mata and Brandon Walter


In the middle of March, the SoxProspects.com Brass made our annual trip to Spring Training to catch the action on the back fields in minor league camp. I was able to spend a full week in Fort Myers this year, and as a result I was able to see more players than ever before. Today, we’ll focus on the top two pitchers in our rankings heading into our trip to Fort Myers.

The top pitcher in the SoxProspects rankings, right-hander Bryan Mata, is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and had been optioned to minor league camp in time for us to see him on the back fields. While Mata’s velocity is back, his command and control are still a work in progress. His fastball sat 95-97 mph and he touched 98 mph, but it was very hittable when in the zone in this outing. Mata’s four-seam fastball lacks movement and is very straight, so his command needs to be there for that pitch to be successful. It is better to the arm side at this point, and in this outing, he had the tendency to cut off his delivery and yank the pitch to the glove side. 

Mata also showed all three of his secondary pitches: slider, changeup and curveball. He got whiffs with all of them, though all were inconsistent. His slider was his primary out pitch at 87-89 mph, but he struggled to find his release point with it, often holding it too long and yanking it glove-side. His changeup was a little more impressive in this one, flashing late dive down and away from a left-handed hitter’s bat, and he actually snapped off a few decent curveballs, including one that he got a whiff on from Twins shortstop Carlos Correa—who was hitting every inning while rehabbing in this one, as were Alex Kiriloff and Byron Buxton, making things a bit harder on Mata. His curveball has long, vertical break and flashed average potential. At the end of the day, spring training is all about building towards the regular season, and in flashes, Mata showed why he is so highly regarded. It is still unclear if he is a starter long-term, but with the arsenal he has, he could be very effective in a multi-inning bridge role at some point this year. 

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Left-hander Brandon Walter had one of the best starts to 2022 of any pitcher in the Red Sox system , but a bulging disc injury ended his season after only two months. Walter had a normal camp and, like Mata, is starting the season in the Worcester rotation. In the four-inning outing I saw, he was impressive, striking out seven hitters while walking two and allowing only two singles. He was facing a poor Double-A lineup for Atlanta, but he did exactly what he was supposed to do and was in control throughout, even though he did not have his best stuff. 

Walter’s fastball sat 90-92 mph, and at this point, that might just be where he sits. Back in 2021, he sat 92-94 mph, but he did not show that type of velocity last season, and in longer outings it seems like the low-90s band is where he has settled. Even at that velocity he can be effective, as the pitch has heavy sink and he commands it well. Both his changeup and slider were effective in this one, generating four swinging strikes each. His changeup at 81-83 mph was his primary out pitch against right-handed hitters, but he also threw it more to left-handed hitters than I remember him doing in the past. Lefty-lefty changeups can be a dangerous pitch, because if you miss location, it will usually fade right into the swing path of the hitter, but with Walter’s advanced command of it, he did a good job either keeping it away or down and in. Walter also got four swinging strikes with his slider at 78-80 mph. The pitch has the long, sweepy, horizontal movement a lot of teams are looking for these days, and it got misses from both right-handed and left-handed hitters. 

Photo Credit: Bryan Mata and Brandon Walter by Kelly O'Connor.

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.