Scouting Yankees Prospect #42: Matt Tracy

The Yankees drafted left-handed pitcher Matt Tracy in the 24th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of the University of Mississippi. He bounced back from an injury plagued 2013 campaign to have a solid season last year, finishing second overall in innings pitched in the farm system, in the top five in wins, and in the top ten among the ERA leaders.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Matt Tracy
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 26, 1988
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

"I felt like the season went really well," Tracy said. "I stayed healthy which is the main thing especially coming off of the previous year where I had been injured and missed a lot of time.

"I stayed healthy and made my starts throughout the whole season, pitched 150 innings, those are the positives. There's also a lot of things to work on too like every year."

He had amassed just 63.2 innings in 2013 while dealing with both a hip and back issue, and when he was healthy enough to pitch that year he was either great or struggled big-time. He surrendered two earned runs or less in seven of his fourteen appearances, including five shutout appearances, but he posted an 11.81 ERA in his seven other games, accounting for 90 percent of the earned runs he gave up in 2013.

He got back to being a consistent pitcher again, however, last season, allowing less than four earned runs in 21 of his 28 games.

"Just staying consistent throughout the whole season and mixing in all four of my pitches pretty well, and working deep into games," he listed as his areas of improvement last season. "Getting to 150 innings was big too.

"Those were the positives but the things I'd like to improve on is -- my walk rate was the best it's ever been in my career but it still needs to be a lot better and I've got to generate more swings and misses with my offspeed pitches."

Pleased with the season he had last year, Tracy still isn't satisfied. The former college outfielder is still learning the nuances of pitching, including not only expanding his repertoire but fine-tuning each pitch within his arsenal. His cutter for example, a pitch he only began introducing in 2013, still needs refinement.

"I call it a cutter but sometimes it's a slider," he admitted. "I just need to continue to work on that pitch. It worked at times last year and it was very beneficial to me but it needs to get better. It just needs to have a more consistent break and be a little bit tighter."

Although he is already proficient pitching inside to right-handed batters, the cutter is just another weapon to help him do that. It's also a pitch to help him command the outer-half of the plate against left-handed batters. In fact, he's hoping it can eventually combine with his curveball to help him be more effective against lefties overall.

"It's good," he said of the curveball. "I think I actually improved on it a lot this offseason. I'm working on trying to improve the spin on it a lot better. Hopefully that pays off in Spring Training and going into the season.

"Last year I felt much more comfortable throwing it in the zone and I could use it a lot to get ahead of hitters which is very good. That means I'm having better feel for it but it needs to be sharper in order to generate more swings and misses, that way it could be that strikeout pitch."

Still more of a 'show-me' pitch than an actual strikeout weapon, Tracy continues to further advance his breaking ball and his cutter. And while the velocity on his fastball remains more than fine, sitting mostly in the above average to plus range for a left-handed pitcher, the overall command of his heater remains a priority as well.

"It's good. Command is something you never really stop trying to get better at though because you can always improve in that area. Fastball command is extremely important to success so I need to continue working on that. It's gotten better each year but there's still a lot of room for improvement."

Improving on hitting the outside corners is still a developmental mantra too. He has been very good at owning the inside portion of the plate but getting similar control of the outer-half could be a big key going forward.

"We worked on that low and away fastball to right-handed hitters a little bit last year. It was a point of emphasis last year but I don't ever want to get away from pitching inside. It's something I like to do and I feel comfortable doing, and I've had a lot of success doing it."

Just like current big league pitcher Chase Whitley, Tracy is a former college position player still learning how to best implement his entire repertoire and advance his overall feel for pitching.

"Having better control of the strike zone, being able to throw what I want on a consistent basis, get ahead of hitters, and get in good counts, that's what I need to do," he said.

And just like Whiltley, Tracy, now 26 years old, still not only has some upside to his game but he believes he could be very much Whitley-like and help out the big league club in some capacity sometime in the near future.

"It's definitely so much fun watching Chase and Shane Greene get their chance up there, have a lot of success, and do well. It was a confidence booster not only for myself but for other people in the organization, just to see guys we've come up with get a chance up at the big league level and also have some success, and help our team win.

"Sure, I definitely feel like I have the chance to be one of those guys," he insisted. "It just comes down to results, doing well, being consistent, and being better every single day."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Scranton

1-6

0

62.2

74

21

39

4.45

2014

Trenton

8-2

0

88.1

97

34

50

3.26

2013

Trenton

4-5

0

63.2

67

37

60

5.51

2012

Scranton

1-0

0

5.0

3

3

4

1.80

2012

Tampa

5-7

0

99.0

88

39

64

3.27

2011

Staten Island

1-2

0

47.1

41

16

48

3.04



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Cutter.

Fastball. Tracy has plenty of velocity working in his favor, sitting mostly in the 91-94 mph range between his sinking two-seamer [91-2 mph] and four-seam fastball [92-94 mph]. He has slowly transitioned from mostly a four-seam fastball hurler to now more predominantly one who throws mostly two-seamers, and it has taken a while for him to better command his sinker as a result since it gets such good movement.

Other Pitches. Tracy's best secondary pitch has always been his reliable above average big league changeup. It shows solid fade and depth, and it is his most consistent pitch that he can throw for strikes. It's built to induce contact, however. He has a quality big league curveball, one that will will mostly 75-77 mph. It's a pitch he throws for strikes to get ahead earlier in counts and like the changeup it's a pitch that gets more contact than it does generating swings and misses. He rounds out his repertoire with a cutter/slider. It ranges between the two pitches depending on the velocity and break, neither of which he has control over consistently yet. While it's not a consistent pitch yet on the gun or break-wise, it is ironically the pitch that creates the most swings and misses so it shows long-term above average potential.

Pitching. Tracy is a bit of a throwback pitcher mentality-wise. He doesn't care about his own numbers nor is he looking to strike everybody out. He also pitches a ton inside to batters, an art form that has been seemingly lost over the years. He would rather jam a batter on an inside pitch than try to strike him out. He's all about generating harmless ground ball outs in as few pitches as possible and in that regard he's a defense's best friend. It's because of that efficient approach on the mound that he's able to maintain his velocity deep into games and log a ton of innings, and the byproduct is fewer strikeouts. The walks remain a little high because his command lags behind the stuff right now; it has nothing to do with his approach because he definitely employs a bulldog, go-get-'em style of attacking batters. A former outfielder, he excels at fielding his position and he's very adept at holding down the running game.

Projection. Tracy is a bit of a 'tweener role-wise. It would seem a left-hander with his kind of velocity would find a home in the bullpen, especially considering the very realistic possibility that he could see a velocity spike pitching in shorter relief stints. However, he is still learning to pitch against left-handed batters and has not yet learned to overpower them. In fact, he has proven to be much better against right-handed batters in his career and he's able to maintain his velocity deep into games too, which is a real positive. Therefore he best projects as a back-end big league starting pitcher initially, one who still has the ceiling to eventually slide into the middle of the rotation if and when either the curveball or the cutter improve to a formidable, reliable strikeout pitch. Think of a left-handed version of Chase Whitley as a potential middle reliever, long-man/spot-starter, or back-end starting pitcher. He provides some role flexibility.

ETA. 2015. The Yankees are now busting at the seams with bullpen options both big league tested and big league ready, especially after trading away Manny Banuelos. That means Tracy will most likely be kept in the starting role for the time being and that likely spells a return ticket to Triple-A Scranton to start the season. Don't be surprised if he's called upon should injuries befall the big league starting rotation and if he's pitching well.


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