First Pitch: The Rise and Rise of Will Matthiessen

What if every single Pirates fan and follower made a pact?

What if we don’t tell Will Matthiessen that he wasn’t meant to be Aaron Judge?

Hear me out…

On August 6th, Matthiessen made headlines, pitching in the top of the 12th inning, then hitting a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the inning.

Matthiessen, an outfielder and first baseman who was drafted in the 6th round of 2019, didn’t stop there. He’s hit four more home runs since that night, and in total has a .339/.383/.661 line since August 6th. (Update: I wrote this before Matthiessen homered again on 8/24).

We’re not going to discuss small sample sizes.

That’s part of the pact.

Again, we’re just not going to tell Matthiessen that he’s NOT Aaron Judge.

In fact, we’re not even going to draw comparisons to any player, despite Matthiessen’s 6′ 7″, 220 pound frame narrowing the player comp field.

We’re just going to let Will Matthiessen be Will Matthiessen.

We won’t worry about what he did in 2019, batting for a .643 OPS in his first run through pro ball. That could draw his attention to numbers in the past that weren’t as favorable as this current small sample size, and he could start to be persuaded that his current stretch is just a fluke.

No, we’re going to make a pact that when we see giant Will Matthiessen in the street, we’re only going to congratulate him on all of the home runs.

We’ll manipulate this prospect machine to validate him as a prospect.

“At 6′ 7″, 220 pounds, Matthiessen has a frame built for power, and is already starting to display that in games.”

“Yes, Matthiessen is 23-years-old in High-A ball, but he was born literally three days after Matt Fraizer, and there was a pandemic that wiped out a year, so his age is just a number.”

“Matthiessen strikes out a lot, but that’s a tradeoff for power, and he’s reduced the strikeouts during the current stretch.”

“What we’re seeing now is a continuation of what Matthiessen did at Stanford.”

See? Those are all things that kind of make Matthiessen sound like a prospect who was always supposed to be doing this.

No one has said the above.

I’m pretty sure no one is actively campaigning against Will Matthiessen to warrant such responses.

All I’m saying is that if you see Will Matthiessen, don’t doubt his current stretch. Don’t even discuss it as if it’s out of the ordinary. For all we know, he’s just doing Will Matthiessen things, and we really don’t have a large sample of evidence to say otherwise.


What if it were all this easy?

What if Will Matthiessen actually saw a significant change.

Wake up one day, you’ve got a day off, but the team needs you and you show up with a storybook moment.

That moment gives Matthiessen the momentum to change his career, and continue hitting at a pace that would make him a prospect in everyone’s eyes.

But, what if Matthiessen has already decided he’s that new player?

The prospect evaluation landscape can be brutal. There’s always a desire for players to prove themselves. And the desire for proof is insatiable.

Hit a home run? Prove you can do it again.

Hit a lot of home runs? Prove you can do it at a higher level.

Keep hitting home runs there? Prove you can do it while doing something else of value.

Nothing else to work on in the minors? Let’s see if you can do this in the big leagues.

Had a great rookie season? Let’s see if you can be crucial to this entire franchise’s hope of winning.

Became a core part of the team? Now, can you become an MVP to make up for the struggling players?

There is never really a point where we are satisfied with what a prospect does. The system isn’t built for that. The end goal is to stock the MLB team with the most talented players possible. The minor league system is a daily gauntlet where players have to constantly prove their worthiness in a game where the best players still fail 70% of the time.

Then, when the players prove themselves, we look upon it with skepticism, or at least with brief optimism followed by demands to repeat and prove it was real.

Especially for prospects like Will Matthiessen.

Especially when the prospect wasn’t predicted to be this good in the first place.

We don’t look upon guys like Henry Davis — top prospects since their berth into pro ball — with as much skepticism when they do something good.

When Henry Davis homers, it is all part of the plan.

We still look at Davis with skepticism on the larger scale of expecting him to be an above-average or better MLB starter. He just gets more benefit of the doubt that he’ll cover that ground between here and making the majors before his pressure machine begins churning.

Meanwhile, Matthiessen is still under the radar right now. He won’t receive the same benefit of the doubt that Henry Davis does every time the two of them hit home runs. Davis hits a home run, and it validates his standing. Matthiessen hits a home run, and it’s seen as more of an anomaly.

That might not be the case if Matthiessen keeps hitting home runs.

At a certain point, he’ll be seen as a prospect, and the pressure machine will begin, never settling for anything he’s done, and always asking if he can do more.

All I’m saying is, what if we just assume Will Matthiessen will be Will Matthiessen? And everything we see from Will Matthiessen is legitimate Will Matthiessen behavior?

If no one in the world ever doubted Will Matthiessen, and only offered validation for his success, would that improve his chances of a successful MLB career?

Daily Links

**Top Ten Hitters and Pitchers for Week 16 of the Minor League Season

**Prospect Watch: Altoona Gets the Band Back Together, Piles on the Offense

**Pirates OF Gregory Polanco Clears Waivers

**Chavis, Alford Back Brubaker’s Strong Start as Pirates Beat Diamondbacks 4-2

**Game Recap: Clash of the Titans II – The Kraken is Released

**This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: August 24th, Jewel Ens

**Card of the Day: 1919 W514 Casey Stengel

Song of the Day