Matt Tracy led Staten Island to a Championship (photo from Mike Ashmore's Thunder Thoughts)
I had the privilege to speak with Yankee left-handed pitching prospect Matt Tracy who is down in Minor-League Training Camp in Tampa. Tracy was a 24th-rd selection by the Yankees in the 2011 draft out of the University of Mississippi. The 6’3” 212 pound southpaw pitched out of the bullpen for the Staten island Yankees and was extremely effective allowing just 1 earned run in 22.3 IP and holding hitters to a puny .108 Batting Average.
His effectiveness out of the pen led Manager Tom Slater to stretch him out to see what he could do as a starter. It took Tracy a few weeks to build up innings and he made 6 starts to finish the regular season. In the post-season, Tracy really stepped up, throwing a pair of 6-inning shutouts to lead Staten Island to the NY Penn League Championship. Overall, Tracy finished the year going 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA/1.06 WHIP , 56 Ks & 17 BBs in 59.3 IP. He held hitters to a .211 BA with just 1 HR and an impressive 2.26 Ground Out to Air Out Ratio.
Tracy was overlooked by a lot of prospect evaluators (myself included) because he was an older college grad in the NYPL who pitched most of the season out of the pen. He’s a very promising lefty with 3 quality offerings who can induce grounders and be effective vs. LH & RH hitters. 2012 will be an opportunity for Tracy to pitch as a full-time pitcher for the first time right out of ST and could move up through the system very quickly. My questions are in BLUE.
You were drafted by the Marlins after your Junior year in college but elected not to sign and returned to Ole Miss. What went in to that decision?
I felt like I still wanted to finish up my degree so I had that out of the way, and I felt there was still stuff for me to do at Ole Miss. I wanted to see how the team could do my Senior yr and I just wasn’t ready for pro ball yet.
You were a 2-way player in college at Ole Miss as an OF and Pitcher – Do you think that may have hurt your development as a pitcher?
Its definitely a challenge when you are doing both because you don’t get to spend your full time and energy on one specific thing. But it also helped me in ways too because I learned how to be a hitter and how I don’t like to be pitched and stuff like that so I had the hitters perspective.
You pitched in a big-time baseball conference in college at Ole Miss – how did the competition in the New York Penn League compare to the SEC?
The NYPL has a lot of talented players. That’s the way it will be in pro ball – these guys are here for a reason. In the SEC I faced a lot of talented guys as well. It’s the toughest college baseball conference in the country so I think it prepared me very well for this type of setting.
After they drafted you, did the Yankees discuss whether they viewed you as a Starter or Reliever?
Not much was discussed, I went to Staten Island to see where I fit in. They used me in the pen and then about half way through the season they had me starting.
What was it like to make the transition from relieving to starting in the middle of the season?
There’s a little bit of a difference but starting is something I did my whole career. I did it growing up, in high school and I did it in college. I’m used to it so it wasn’t a huge difference to make the transition.
What does your arsenal consist of?
Fastball – 2-seamer & 4-seamer, Curveball & Change Up. The Fastball was between 90-94 mph this summer
What is your best pitch?
I like my Fastball. I think its one of the most important pitches for a pitcher. Having good command of the Fastball and being able to attack hitters with that. My best off-speed pitch is my changeup
On video your changeup looks very effective pitch against RH hitters – Is that why you had success vs. Righties? ( RH hitters hit .221 vs. Tracy while LH hitters hit .270)
My out-pitch depends on the hitter but I generally feel real comfortable against RH hitters because I have a good feel for my Changeup.
Have you noticed a change in your stuff or velocity once you started pitching full-time with Staten Island?
Yes, I definitely saw an up tick in velocity this summer. I started throwing a little harder this summer because I was surrounded by a couple of great coaches. First we had Danny Borrell, pitching coach for Staten Island, he helped me out tremendously with my mechanics and cleaning everything up. Then Rosie (coach Jose Rosado) came up when Danny got hurt and he also helped me out. Definitely, mechanic-wise, because of the good coaches, I feel more comfortable and the ball seems to be coming out a little better. There were small things we saw while looking at tape, some stuff with my leg kick and some stuff with my front side.
You only got 6 starts under your belt as a starter before the post-season started. What clicked for you in the Playoffs that made you so successful?
I just got back to the same old stuff that makes a good pitcher – making quality pitches, getting ahead of guys, attacking hitters and making good quality pitches down in the zone. As the season progressed, my Curveball got a little better and more consistent. That helped me out, having that 3rd pitch that I could throw for a strike that maybe wasn’t there for me in the middle of the summer.
What is your approach out there on the mound?
My approach on the mound is to attack the hitters and make quality pitches. Its really as simple as that – just trying to execute. I attack different hitters differently – I throw more changeups to righties and more Curveballs to lefties.
After the season ended in late September, did you pitch in the Fall and what were you trying to improve upon?
I went to the Instructional League here in Tampa for 2 weeks. I enjoyed that. Working on my delivery in front of a lot of different coaches. I worked on my Curveball a lot down in Instructs – that was my main focus. I think I improved that and played in some games. I got some stuff done and got a little better.
How about the Winter – where did you workout?
Working out down at Ole Miss with 6 or 7 other pro guys from Ole Miss. Working out and throwing. Good to be surrounded by other guys with the same goals to push each other. Worked on full-body stuff, Core, legs & upper body.
What was it like wining a championship at Staten Island in your first year of pro ball?
NY Penn Lg Championship Cup (photo from Mjtracy17 twitter's page)
It was definitely cool. We had a great group of guys and some good team chemistry. I really like all those guys and we clicked really well. Winning is fun. Any time you’re in a postseason atmosphere when the games mean a little more, it’s a really great feeling to win.
Your SI team was filled with talent -which of your teammates really impressed you?
We really did have a lot talented guys. Game to game someone else stood out. Mason Williams in CF was terrific all yr. What was impressive was a lot of those guys were so young to be able to perform at that level. We had a lot of HS guys, it’s a different dynamic and I thought we meshed really well – the college kids and the HS kids.
What do you feel you need to improve and what are your goals for 2012?
Continue in my progression as a pitcher. Getting more consistent with my Curveball is definitely going to be up there – getting more consistent all around that’s what makes you a good pitcher. Being able to attack the zone and throw quality strikes to make things tough on hitters
What pitchers in the majors do you try to emulate or who would you compare yourself to?
I’m a huge baseball fan and there’s stuff I pick up from a bunch of guys. I like watching all the great pitchers to try and pick something up whether its Chris Carpenter or Roy Halladay they’re both so great I love watching them pitch.
I know you grew up as a Cardinals fan in St.Louis – What was it like being drafted by the Yankees?
Been a great opportunity to be part of this organization and they do things right so its definitely a blessing.