23. Mark Mathias – Infielder
Born: 08/02/1994 – Height: 6’0” – Weight: 200 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Mathias was selected by the Indians in the 3rd round of the 2015 Draft out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (CA) and signed for $550,000. As a sophomore in 2014 he earned Big West Conference Field Player of the Year honors and going into the 2015 season was named to the preseason first-team D1Baseball.com All-America Team, second-team Baseball America Preseason All-America Team and second-team National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-America Team. Last season he finished 9th in the Carolina League in runs scored (70), 3rd in doubles (39), tied for 6th in on-base percentage (.359) and 14th in OPS (.764).
Offense: Mathias is an offensive-oriented player whose bat is his carrying tool and provides some advanced skills which could allow him to move quickly through the system. He has a line drive swing to all fields with some pure natural hitting skills, good hands and good feel for the bat head which should allow him to have a plus hit tool and hit for average as he settles in as a pro. He does a nice job of being in sync with his upper and lower half and uses his bottom half well where he really uses his legs to drive through the baseball. He has a very good approach where he recognizes pitches well, limits swing and miss and chase, has a feel for how he is being pitched to, makes good adjustments within at bats and is well prepared when he steps into the box. He has a solid build with a strong, muscular frame with some good bat speed that allows him to show average power, though he’s more of a doubles hitter with gap power at the moment who could see an uptick in his home run totals as he adds more strength and refines his swing.
Defense: Mathias is an average defender at second base who is sure-handed with some good actions and quick hands, though is limited some with his range and overall quickness for the position. His arm strength is solid average and has returned to full strength after being limited in 2015 when he was returning from labrum surgery, which allowed the Indians to give him some time on the left side of the infield last season with 26 games at third base and 19 games at shortstop. His versatility is a plus for him and will allow him to move around as needed, and the Indians even believe he has the athleticism and ability to play in the outfield if needed.
Speed & Intangibles: Mathias is an average runner who shows some good instincts and athleticism on the bases. The Indians love his makeup as he is one of the toughest players both physically and mentally they have had in the system over the last few seasons. He is someone who even when he is struggling you don’t know it by the way he acts in the clubhouse, cage, dugout and the way he interacts with his teammates and coaches. He is an amazingly steady player who leads by example and just stays on an even keel and does not get too high on the highs or low on the lows, and is just going to show up, be prepared and try to get better and play hard no matter what. He displays a strong aptitude as he listens to coaching well and has a willingness to make adjustments, and has a very professional approach with his routines and his work where he shows a continued commitment and drive to improve.
Focus: The main focus for Mathias is to get him more on time with the bat. The Indians really worked to make some adjustments to his swing over the entire course of last season, and will continue to do so this season. When he was at Short-A Mahoning Valley in 2015, a lot of his hits were to the opposite field which was a sign he was a little late with his swing, so last season the Indians worked with him to work the ball to left center more and be able to be on time more against higher velocity pitchers. He had a little toe tap when he would swing which caused him to be a little late, so he made an adjustment to eliminate the toe tap and use more of a hover leg kick which resulted in more rhythm and quicker barrel movement at the plate. They also altered the way he loaded his body and how he got into a launch position to get him into a more consistent firing position, which in turn put him in a better position to hit and allowed him to be shorter to the ball. The Indians also want to see his power take a step forward and have some of his doubles evolve into home runs, and believe that as he learns to be on time and turn on balls that he will be able to backspin balls better and see an improvement in those home run totals. Defensively, he is probably limited as an everyday option anywhere but second base, so to be an option at third base or another position he will need to work to build up his arm strength and get a little quicker with his feet and softer with his hands.
Future: Mathias had a very good return to the field full-time last season after being limited because of recovery from major surgery the year before. He originally underwent labrum surgery in early December 2014 after he injured it while playing for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team earlier that summer, so he was slowed some in his final college season in 2015 and in his pro debut as well. He really made a lot of strides with his shoulder and regained all the strength and flexibility to it, and completed last season without any issues and proved he was 100% and that the injury is behind him. The renewed confidence in his shoulder and some adjustments to his swing resulted in a strong showing last season, and one where he made some incremental strides over the course of the year and finished the season strong. He has established himself as a very good second base prospect for the Indians and because of his versatility to play some other positions he could also make it to the big leagues in a super utility role. He’s someone the Indians know well as they followed him in high school and all through college, and just feel that if he can stay healthy he will be a Major League player. He’s not a toolsy guy, doesn’t have impressive size and is not loaded with athleticism, so he is not someone who will stand out when you watch him play once, but he is someone who you grow to appreciate the more you see him because of how well-rounded his game is and the toughness and makeup that is on display day in and day out. He’s someone who could move quickly and with his versatility could get him to the big leagues by 2018, but for now should open the season at Double-A Akron and will probably spend the entire season there.
Ranking History: 19th (2016)