There was a lot of optimism surrounding Brian Matusz based on his strong spring training, but unfortunately so far he’s looked more or less like the guy who posted a historically awful 10.68 ERA last season.
Matsuz threw 25 innings with a 3.65 ERA and 22/3 K/BB ratio during spring training, but through two regular season starts he’s allowed nine runs in 9.2 innings with more walks (8) than strikeouts (5).
If there’s any good news to be found within that performance it’s that Matusz’s average fastball velocity is 90.6 miles per hour compared to 88.0 mph last season, but Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports that the 25-year-old left-hander “was about as angry and frustrated as I’ve ever seen him” following yesterday’s loss to Toronto.
Matusz logged 176 innings with a 4.30 ERA and 143/63 K/BB ratio as a 23-year-old rookie in 2009 and the former No. 4 overall pick looked like a long-term building block for the Orioles, but since then he’s 1-11 with a 10.31 ERA and has allowed a startling 69 runs–including 20 homers–in 59 innings.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.