Finishing Strong: Will Matthiessen Continues Offensive Explosion Down Stretch For Grasshoppers
|Photo Credit: Stanford Athletics|
There aren't many players who have had as an interesting month as Greensboro Grasshopper Will Matthiessen. Not only has he been on a tear in August offensively, he earned his first professional win on the mound in a wild and crazy game against Hickory.
It won't take you long to notice the former Stanford Cardinal on the diamond, as he stands a towering 6'7" - one of the tallest position players in all of baseball.
His performance during the month of August has him near the top as one of the best performance in the High-A East conference.
Matthiessen was part of that 2019 draft class for the Pittsburgh Pirates that feature over ten players on the current Greensboro roster, as well as the recently promoted Matt Fraizer.
Before that, Matthiessen spent three years at Stanford as a two-way player. He was recognized as an All-American Honorable mention by Perfect Game/Rawling, and was a finalist for the John Olerud award in 2019.
Upon arriving on campus, Matthiessen started as a pitcher, with only one plate appearance as a freshman compared to 38 2/3 innings on the mound. With all his outings coming in relief, Matthiessen posted a 2.33 ERA with 32 strikeouts while holding his opponents to an .221 average.
As a sophomore he saw more time on the offense side of things, getting into 33 games - 23 starts - as the team's designated hitter, batting .293/.414/.598 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. His mound presence was a little more limited, only pitching 17 innings. He registered a 2.12 ERA in that span, again all out of the bullpen.
His junior year he found the perfect balance, starting 59 games as a hitter, and pitching in 16 (eight starts). On the mound, Matthiessen posted a 3.83 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. Offensively he posted a .921 OPS with 24 extra base hits (12 home runs) and 52 RBIs.
Once drafted, Matthiessen was assigned to West Virginia to finish out the year with the Pirates' short season team. He showed some promise (10 extra base hits), but also struggled with a .220 average and struck out nearly 30% of the time.
He made a quick stop with Bradenton to the start the season, but an injury forced a promotion to Greensboro after just 12 games in Low-A. He was tearing the cover off the ball in his short time with the Marauders, hitting .256/.431/.538 with six of his ten hits being for extra bases.
That success didn't translate to Greensboro, however, as Matthiessen struggled to adjust to the higher level. He batted .180 in the month of June with an .541 OPS, and striking out in 24 of his 50 at bats.
He showed signs of improvement in July, posting an .782 OPS but the strikeouts still remained a concern, limiting him to a .234 average (40.6 K%).
When the Pirates drafted Matthiessen, they announced him as an outfielder, a position he has rarely played since turning pro. He only there for 14 games with West Virginia in 2019, and didn't line up in the outfield in any games for Bradenton to begin the year.
But they did remember he did pitch at Stanford, and they used that to their advantage in one of the coolest moments of the minor league season. Matthiessen into relief during Greensboro's August 6th contest against the Hickory Crawdad's that went into extra innings.
He allowed five earned runs in the one inning of relief he pitched, giving Hickory a 14-8 lead. But as baseball does sometimes, it allowed Matthiessen to erase that inning he pitched and deliver a picture perfect moment - which he did, hitting a walk off grand slam to win the game for the Grasshoppers.
Will Matthiessen gave up six runs as a position player pitching and then hit a walkoff grand slam! 🤯pic.twitter.com/rN6GxD2vwK— Young Bucs (@YoungBucsPIT) August 7, 2021
July 18th was his first appearance in the outfield of 2021, but with the promotion of Fraizer, followed by injuries to Matt Gorski and Chase Murray it created a need in the outfield that Matthiessen has been filling. Over the past week, the 23 year old from Oregon has played in four more games at right field.
Offensively, Matthiessen has been tearing the cover off the ball as of late. Going back to July, he has an 16 game on base streak and this past week against the Winston-Salem Dash might earn him some recognition nationally.
Playing in all six games, Matthiessen batted 9 for 23 (.391) with two doubles, three home runs, 15 RBIs and 20 total bases (.870 SLG%). That included going 5 for 8 with two home runs and eight RBIs across both games of Sunday's doubleheader.
When the spotlight was on Henry Davis' Greensboro debut, Matthiessen came through with a double and three runs driven in.
For the entire month of August, Matthiessen has posted a .333 average with an 1.150 OPS. His four home runs is tied for fourth in High-A East, his 20 RBIs are first. He also ranks fifth in slugging and OPS.
While he isn't the first name your going to mention when it comes to the Grasshoppers, Matthiessen has been every bit involved in the fact that they have won 10 of their 13 games during the month of August, that includes a sweep of their rivals Winston-Salem.
News and Notes from Greensboro
- Greensboro heads back home to face Bowling Green, who currently sit in first of the High-A East, South division. The Grasshoppers currently sit five games back of the Hot Rods, making this week a perfect opportunity to chip into that lead.
- Carmen Mlodzinski made his return to the mound, pitching two innings while allowing a walk and hit. He also struck out two batters, throwing 30 pitches, 19 of which were for strikes. It was his first outing since July 10.
- It has now been five starts for Tahnaj Thomas since coming back from some time off to refine his pitching mechanics. While overall it wasn't his best outing, and some of the control things surfaced again (three walks), Thomas did go a full five innings, a feat he has only accomplish three times this year.