The Red Sox announced Wednesday that pitching prospect Bryan Mata underwent Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles yesterday. The right-hander was diagnosed with a “slight” tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow in early March and hoped to avoid surgery. After several weeks of downtime, however, it appears the outlook had not changed. He’ll miss the 2021 season and the early portion of 2022 as well.
Mata, 22 next month, is widely regarded as the organization’s top pitching prospect. He reached Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2019 and posted a combined 3.43 ERA, 24.7 percent strikeout rate and 9.3 percent walk rate in 105 innings across two levels that season. Had he been healthy, he’d likely have been ticketed for a return trip to Double-A and may even have emerged as a candidate to join the big league club later in the year.
Instead, as is the case with injured prospects around the league, Mata will now go about two years without playing in a competitive game setting. The lack of a minor league season in 2020 deprived prospects around the game of critical development time, and Mata will tack another 12 months onto his layoff from competition. He did see some work at the Red Sox’ alternate training site last summer, so it’s not as though he was completely idle, but the lost time to refine his skills nevertheless stings. Of course, Mata has youth on his side and could still very plausibly make it to the big leagues in his early 20s if he’s able to make a relatively swift recovery from yesterday’s procedure.