We are back with the Top 30 Prospects and next up is a player who tumbled in last year’s rankings but found redemption repeating in Bluefield at a new position. However there is one question that fans of the Toronto Blue Jays still find themselves asking — is Matthew Dean for real?
Name: Matt Dean
Date of Birth: 12/22/1992
Acquired: 13th round of 2011 MLB Draft ($737,500 USD)
High School: The Colony HS (The Colony, TX)
College: None (had commitment to Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’3″/190 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked 29th on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
- 2013 Appalachian League All-Star
- 2013 Howard R. Webster Award winner (Blue Jays MVP – Rookie Advanced)
Stats and Analysis:
Dean was a highly regarded prospect coming out of high school but had a miserable first season of professional baseball in 2012. Repeating in Bluefield last year, he was able to turn it around and became one of the league’s best players.
I covered Dean’s 2013 season previously here and so I’ll quickly reiterate his month-by-month splits.
His second time around with Bluefield he started slowly yet again, batting .250/.308/.333 in June. But he continued to show improvements each month. His triple-slash was .313/.387/.494 in July and was even more impressive in August, when he batted .396/.424/.615 to close out the campaign.
Among players with at least 75 plate appearances, Dean’s OPS of .909 and SLG of .519 were both third best in the Appy League and he was the only player under 22 to slug at least .500. Among qualifiers, which isn’t always the best metric to use for fast-moving prospects, he was ranked even better and had the league’s highest batting average and OPS. He showed good pop at the plate and nearly one-third of his hits were for extra bases.
The knock against Dean is he was aided by an unsustainable .436 BABIP in 2013 and although he made a marginal improvement in his strikeout rate, it was still much too high at 24.5%. His walk rate of 6% was also low, which leaves a lot to wish for when it comes to his peripherals.
Dean struggled in the field during 2012 and made 24 errors at third base, which prompted the organization to move him to first for the majority of 2013. In 57 games at his new position, he made only two errors (in nearly 500 opportunities) and experienced a fairly seamless transition to first base.
His season ended in Bluefield and he wasn’t promoted to the Vancouver Canadians for their September playoff run. It’s tough to argue with who the Blue Jays did end up selecting but especially considering how he was hitting at the time I was surprised he didn’t make the cut.
Video Credit: MLB Prospect Portal
Dean sets up in an upright, square stance with high hands during his approach. He gives a quick leg kick as he prepares to unload and drops his hands slightly, which gives him an uppercut-type swing. He maintains very good balance but sells out a bit for power by rotating his hips a little bit early. He has excellent bat speed but a long swing path leads to problems with whiffs and strikeouts.
Dean lacks athleticism but has a plus arm. He was once upon a time a shortstop but now doesn’t possess the quickness or range to play third base, which is becoming more and more a defensive position. He fielded extremely poorly in 2012 and extremely well in 2013 so I’m conflicted on his glove but as a first baseman he’s easily above average defensively and his transitioned was impressively smooth.
It’s tough to say whether Dean made a revelation with his hit tool or not since his BABIP-fueled line will eventually be destined for at least some regression. It was also his second season at the same level and he didn’t really turn it on until the second half so there are cases to be made against his shiny numbers. He doesn’t show great patience and will expand the strike zone, especially against off-speed pitches. However he kept making better and better contact as the season progressed and I did notice he made an adjustment to quiet his approach at the plate, which seems to be a contributing factor to his success. It’s probably an average tool but if he continues to hit (or not) at the next level and beyond I’d be willing to reconsider that grade.
He isn’t a pure power hitter but it’s a tool that has plus potential. He hits the ball with authority to the pull side and racks up plenty of extra base hits and a decent number of home runs. His swing does slightly sell out for power but if he keeps making strides to improve his contact he should be able to produce enough pop to satisfy the higher demands as a first base prospect.
For a big kid he has decent straight-line speed that is probably fringe-average and if anything you would describe his running ability as “fast” rather than “quick”.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
I’m expecting that Dean is more than ready for his first taste of full season baseball and should start the year with the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts. The more advanced pitching should be a good test and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dean struggle at first as he adjusts. However it’s a hitter-friendly league and Dean may not face his true challenge won’t be until be moves up to High-A Dunedin.
His low walk/high strikeout rate is concerning and he’ll either need to gain a better understanding of the strike zone or hit for a very high average or a tonne of power to succeed at the highest level. His raw talent is starting to show up but the fact he’s probably less athletic than expected means he only has one position with a chance to advance at — first base.
This creates the risk that his hit or power tools won’t develop enough to play first base at the major league level, which has an extremely high benchmark in offensive production. The holes in his swings are also worrisome as he may struggle against higher velocity arms and more advanced pitching as he moves up the ranks.
The repeat year means that unless he’s somehow fast-tracked along the way he’s likely looking at an ETA of 2017. He just turned 21 in December and I would be surprised if he experienced anything outside of the Midwest League in 2014. There’s a slim chance the Blue Jays try to make up for lost time by advancing him to the Florida State League if he hits like he did during his second season in Bluefield while in Lansing, but that would a huge jump and isn’t likely.