Boston Red Sox star Chris Sale spent more time in the minor leagues than he would have liked the last couple of years.
But as the left-handed pitcher rehabbed from injuries, it gave him a close-up view of some of the promising prospects in the Red Sox’s pipeline. And one prospect in particular stood out to Sale.
It was right-handed pitcher Bryan Mata, who returned to the mound last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021. The 23-year-old is ranked as Boston’s No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and can light up a radar gun.
Mata has been highly touted since joining the Red Sox in 2017 and Sale saw the reasons why as he was impressed by the tools the youngster possesses.
“I’m biased because I’m a pitcher, but I love watching Mata throw,” Sale said last month at Red Sox Winter Weekend. “I was there with him during his rehab process through Tommy John. We rehabbed together. And I saw him really turn a corner. Just the power he possesses, the ease that it looks like he’s throwing with.”
Mata missed all of 2021 but worked his way back into a groove last year. He made 18 starts across four levels of minor league baseball and finished the season with a combined 7-3 record and a 2.49 ERA. Mata also struck out 105 batters in 83 innings pitched.
Mata got promoted to Triple-A Worcester in August, just one stop away from helping out the Red Sox. Mata could make his big-league debut this upcoming season, an exciting proposition given his abundance of potential.
Even Sale can’t help but think that he and Mata could be teammates in the near future.
“Not for nothing, man, that dude’s smile can light up a room,” Sale said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a good teammate. You can tell just how he operates, he really wants it. Be excited to see him and get him here full time.”