Name: Doug Mathis
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: June 7, 1983
Right-handed pitcher Doug Mathis had a breakout performance in 2007, but his season was often overshadowed. That was likely because the Rangers added upwards of ten top prospects via trade or draft during the 2007 season.
But Mathis is used to being overshadowed. Mathis worked as a Sunday starting pitcher during his days at the University of Missouri. That was because highly-regarded prospects Max Scherzer and Nathan Culp took the ball on Fridays and Saturdays, respectively.
Mathis, who pitched one season at Missouri, posted a 3.27 ERA while ranking third on the team with 77 innings pitched. The performance enticed the Rangers to take him with their 13th round pick in the 2005 MLB Draft.
At the time, Mathis was regarded as a smart college pitcher with average stuff but a good feel for pitching. Because of that, it came as little surprise when Mathis mastered the college-heavy short-season Northwest League in 2005, putting up a 2.68 ERA in 88 innings.
Mathis began his first full season at High-A Bakersfield, completely skipping Single-A Clinton. The righty struggled from the outset, but things would improve. Mathis rebounded to post one of the best second halves in the Rangers system in 2006.
Regarded as one of the hardest workers in the organization, Mathis' efforts were beginning to pay off. Mathis' velocity increased, as he began working in the low-90s with his sinker. He often pitched in the 88-91 MPH range in college. The Missouri product was also helped by the re-addition of his curveball. Though Mathis threw a curveball in high school, he did not use it during his three years of collegiate ball.
Mathis' 2006 campaign ended with two starts at Double-A Frisco, where he was able to show off his sinker by inducing 9.5 groundouts per flyout in two starts.
An impressive 2007 spring training gave the Rangers yet another opportunity to push the right-hander. Though it was just his second full professional season, Mathis found himself on the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks' opening day roster. But the move was short-lived and semi-disastrous, as Mathis served up 16 runs on 21 hits in 12.2 innings with the club.
The pitcher appeared to be more at home at the Double-A level, where he was virtually unhittable for the season's first two months. Mathis put up a 2.52 ERA in his first eight starts with the RoughRiders before hitting a bit of a rough patch.
A minor back injury helped lead to Mathis' struggles throughout June and July. The ailment bothered Mathis on the mound and kept him from finishing his pitches. In July, Mathis finally made a trip to the disabled list in an attempt to rest his back.
The prospect returned to his early-season form upon return from the DL, as he went 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA in six August starts. Mathis had his best month of the season, holding opposing hitters to a .217 average while striking out 33 – versus eight walks – in 39.1 innings.
It could be argued that Mathis' statistics over the past two seasons have not been completely indicative of how well he has pitched.
With Bakersfield two seasons ago, Mathis initially struggled to adjust after skipping Low-A ball. He rebounded by posting an extremely strong second half. Last season in Frisco, Mathis pitched exceptionally well when healthy, but a mid-season back injury helped to inflate his ERA. The Rangers enter 2008 hoping this will be the season that Mathis has no adjustment periods and is not slowed by injuries.
Also See: Seven breakout candidates for '07 (April 7, 2007)
Mathis emerging as top prospect (May 22, 2007)
Instant Analysis: San Antonio @ Frisco (June 6, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Rick Adair (June 15, 2007)
Rehab stint helps Mathis' ailing back (July 20, 2007)
Instant Analysis: Frisco vs. Corpus Christi (July 28, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Doug Mathis (September 6, 2007)
Sizing up the right-handed pitching prospects (October 16, 2007)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup.
Mathis' best pitch is an 88-93 MPH sinking fastball that he commands well. The pitch generally sits in the upper-80s early in games before rising to the 91-92 MPH range in the middle innings. Mathis' sinker has allowed him to post a two-to-one groundout-to-flyout ratio over the last two seasons. He also works with two breaking balls – a slider and a curveball. Both are strong pitches when working, though his low-80s slider is currently a more consistent pitch. Mathis should get more consistent with his curveball as he gets more experience with it. Mathis also has a strong changeup, which is slightly above average. There were some starts in 2007 where Mathis had all four of his pitches working. Though the occasion was rare, Mathis was unhittable in those select few outings. But the Arizona native was often inconsistent last season, as he rarely had all four pitches clicking at the same time. He has an impressive assortment of pitches, but the key is to find consistency with all of them.
Projection: Mathis currently looks like a back-of-the-rotation sinkerball pitcher, but he has the opportunity to be more. Aside from his sinker, Mathis has three average-to-solid average – but inconsistent – offerings. If he is able to find consistency with even two of those pitches, Mathis could blossom into a mid-rotation starting pitcher. With a good head, the ability to keep the ball on the ground, and four strong pitches, Mathis is a decent bet to become a contributor in the big leagues.
2008 Outlook: The organization's decision to start Mathis in Triple-A last season proved to be a disaster, as he had a 10.66 ERA in three appearances. The pitcher was quickly sent back to Double-A Frisco, where he immediately went on cruise control. Mathis will likely get his second crack at Triple-A Oklahoma to open the 2008 season, but he should be more prepared this time. One of the most cerebral pitchers in the system, Mathis will have learned from his first stint with the RedHawks. It also helps that the hurler will now have a full season of Double-A ball under his belt. Expect Mathis to spend the entire season in Triple-A, though he could force his way into the majors in the second-half.