Home Sports Baseball What to make of Nick Maton’s torrid start

What to make of Nick Maton’s torrid start

The Phillies continue their homestand with a pivotal series in the Wild Card race against the San Francisco Giants. Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL.

Nick Maton has burst onto the scene for the Phillies after being promoted on April 19 following an injury to Jean Segura. The 24-year-old is slashing .474/.500/.632 through the first five games of his young career. Maton is the first Phillies rookie with at least three doubles and nine hits in his first five games. His 12 total bases are two behind the number set by Kevin Stocker in 1993 for most of any Phillies rookie through five games. Maton has been a shot in the arm for a Phillies offense that has been scuffling a bit as of late. 

Key to early results

Maton’s success so far is rooted in his ability to hit fastballs. Six of Maton’s nine hits have come off of fastballs. That is good for an .800 slugging percentage. He has shown that he has the ability to catch up to and drive MLB-caliber velocity in his very young career. Small sample caveat is applicable here, but nevertheless it is a good sign. The first step to being a good big league hitter is hitting fastballs. 

Adjustments are coming

However, major league pitchers are going to adjust to Maton. The clearest adjustment would be to stop giving Maton fastballs and mix in more breaking and offspeed pitches. He is currently seeing 47% fastballs, 34% breaking pitches, and 19% offspeed. That fastball rate is sure to decrease as he keeps hitting. In a very small sample size, Maton is just 1 for 5 off of breaking pitches with an expected average of .022. He has fared better against offspeed in another small sample size, going 2 for 4 with a .369 expected average. He does have a higher whiff percentage on offspeed pitches however.

One thing to keep in mind with Maton’s start is the state of minor league baseball during the pandemic. There was no minor league season last year and only Triple A has started so far this year. That means that any scouting report an opposing team has on Maton is from at least 2019, if there is one at all. Teams will quickly look to rectify that if he stays hot. Also, Maton has never played Triple A ball and has just 21 games played at Double A. 

Counter-Adjustments

Maton has shown an ability to avoid strikeouts throught his MiLB career. He has punched out in just 20% of his career plate appearances in 286 games dating back to 2016. So far in the Majors, Maton has struck out just six times in 20 plate appearances. His ability to control the strike zone should aid him as he begins to see less fastballs. However, it is to be determined if he will actually be able to hit major league breaking and offspeed pitches at a good rate. Maton will have to do so to prove he deserves to stay in the everyday lineup, especially when Jean Segura is healthy. Regardless, Maton should have at least locked in a bench role in the immediate future by proving himself a better option than Ronald Torreyes. A decision will have to be made when the full minor league season starts on May 4th, but Maton should stick on the roster for now.