Kansas City Royals prospect Seuly Matias crushes nearly everything he hits. The only problem is how often he fails to hit anything at all.
In the M. Knight Shyamalan movie “Signs” Joaquin Phoenix plays an ex minor league baseball player named Merrill Hess. Merrill Hess hit 500-foot home runs and owned 5 different minor league home run records. He also reportedly struck out more than any other two players combined. When someone asks him about his strikeout record, Merrill’s response is simple: “Felt wrong not to swing”. Kansas City Royals prospect Seuly Matias has a very similar ethos when it comes to hitting.
Seuly Matias is only 21 years old. He attempted to play hurt in 2019 before finally sitting out with a fractured right hand. Whatever else we believe about the young man, we should never question his toughness after he played baseball for weeks with a broken hand. Some of his statistics this season can probably be attributed to his injury, but it is the recurring issues that have become the concern for Matias’ development.
In 2018, Matias hit 31 home runs in A ball as a 19-year-old. 31 home runs! His ISO was .320. Those are astounding numbers. Those are the numbers of a kid that can easily destroy any baseball he gets a bat on. You cannot really teach power-hitting like that. You just have to enjoy it. You can see in the video below from Legends Baseball just how easy Seuly makes it look to obliterate a baseball.
Seuly also carried a 35 percent strikeout rate in 2018. Over 57 percent of his hits were for extra bases, but he only got enough hits for a .231 batting average. His walk rate of 6.4 percent was not enough to counterbalance his lack of base hits. Matias is essentially hitting a ball to the wall or striking out in his plate appearances.
In his shortened 2019 season Matias did push his walk rate up to over 11 percent but his strikeout rate was over 44 percent. More than 44 percent of the time he stepped to the plate he left with a strikeout. That number is also astounding, just not in a good way.
A young man with this level of otherworldly talent will remain a highly valued prospect until he has exhausted every opportunity to prove otherwise. His bat speed and exit velocity would already play well in AAA. By all accounts, he is also a good outfielder with an exceptional arm.
The shortcomings that Matias needs to improve upon are not secrets. He needs to learn to take a walk. He needs to learn to recognize a breaking ball. He needs to be able to either make contact with a breaking ball or at least keep himself from swinging at it.
Joey Gallo would obviously be the most recent example of a Merrill Hess type that walks enough to make himself an excellent major leaguer. Gallo still strikes out in more than 38 percent of his plate appearances. But he also walks more than 17 percent of the time. That is the kind of balance that Matias needs to find.
We would expect a hitter that can destroy a ball like Seuly can to strike out more than his fair share. He just needs to get those numbers under control. The real stat to watch with Matias will be his walk rate. It needs to begin to climb as he works his way through the upper half of the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system.
AA and AAA teams are littered with Merrill Hess types that just never learned not to swing at anything they thought was within their reach. But, if Seuly Matias wants to bring his superhuman homerun strength to Kansas City someday soon he will need to learn that, sometimes, it can feel good not to swing.