Tomase: Do the Red Sox have a future ace in Bryan Mata?


Effusive doesn't begin to describe the praise Triple-A pitching coach Paul Abbott showered on right-handed prospect Bryan Mata during a Monday Zoom call.

The Red Sox don't boast much in the way of pitching at really any level of the organization, so when Abbott unleashed a deluge of compliments, it was at least worth considering: Might the Red Sox have something in this 21-year-old out of Venezuela?

The experts are split. The Athletic's Keith Law doesn't believe Mata will repeat his delivery enough to remain a starter and only barely squeaks him onto his Boston top 10 list.'s Jim Callis, by contrast, ranks Mata fourth based on a mid-rotation ceiling.

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Abbott? The former big league right-hander describes Mata in terms reserved for the best prospects in the game.

"For me, probably the most exciting guy we have in the organization, and he's one of the most exciting guys in baseball, period," Abbott said. "21 years old, touches 99, sits about 97, and everything he throws is top shelf.

"Obviously, he's a young guy, there's some emotions that get involved and they try to do too much, they're more throwers than pitchers. But he's pretty advanced, even with that being said."

Signed at age 16 in 2015 after a deal with the Brewers fell through, Mata has had to mature in more ways than one since debuting in the Dominican Summer League. Just 160 pounds when he signed, he now tips the scales at 240 as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame.


Mata has consistently advanced through the system despite being one of the youngest players at each stop, including Double-A Portland, which he reached at age 20 last year.

"It was tough at first, being 16 years old and signing," Mata said through interpreter Bryan Almonte.  "Everything I feel happened so quickly, going to the Dominican Republic to play there, and then having to go to the lower levels in the States as well.

"I feel like I just had to grow up really fast and become a man. I'm still young. I'm 21. I'm still learning, I'm still growing as a person, but I feel really good about where I am and where I'm going to be."

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His game is all about power, with a fastball pushing the triple digits and a hard slider as well. Some believe that two-pitch arsenal will ultimately land him in the bullpen, perhaps as a closer, but the Red Sox will give him every chance to start.

He's 22-20 with a 3.40 ERA in 69 minor league starts, making some clear improvements along the way. He halved his walk rate from 2018 (7.3) to 2019 (3.6), and recently made a targeting adjustment that Abbott believes could pay dividends.

"I got really excited the other day," he said. "He took his eyes off the target, caught the target a little late. We want him to focus on the glove all the way through the delivery until the ball hits the glove. It was really exciting to see the side session, the command just really picked up, with everything, and it was playing up in that last game he pitched. 

"You could see the excitement with him: 'Oh yeah, this is cool, the ball is going where I want it.' And with top shelf stuff. He's a reason for a lot of excitement about the future, because he's something special."

Whether he's truly deserving of that high praise or merely a future setup man, at least his potential is legitimate. That makes him a relative rarity in an organization that's just starting to rebuild its stock of arms.