Matt Strahm was off the prospect radar last summer, but one year later he finds himself in the big leagues, succeeding as a reliever. The lefty has enjoyed a meteoric rise, but questions still linger as to what role he will play in the big leagues. He seems well suited to be a shutdown reliever, but with the Royals desperately needing starting pitching, many want to see what he can do as a starter. Just who is Matt Strahm?
Matt Strahm was born in West Fargo, North Dakota on November 12, 1991. He also grew up there and graduated from West Fargo High School. He then chose to move away and attended Neosho County Community College, located in the south-eastern part of Kansas. He Went 9-3 with a 1.48 ERA and 129 strikeouts over 99 innings for the NCCC Panthers, helping to lead them to the NJCAA World Series in 2012.
He was offered an opportunity to pitch for the University of Nebraska following that season, but instead chose to sign with the Royals after they made him their 21st round pick, 643rd overall in the 2012 draft. Strahm boasts an electric fastball which reaches the low-90s when he starts and the mid-90s when he unleashes everything as a reliever. Most view his changeup as mediocre, at best. His curveball is as nasty as they come, though.
If you want something to take your mind off the Royals game, I present to you Matt Strahm's curveball. pic.twitter.com/KFF6KWcRFz— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) May 7, 2016
Strahm was immediately assigned to rookie ball at Idaho Falls after signing. His initial numbers were not promising, though he struck out 42 in only 30 1/3 innings, he also allowed 34 hits and 17 walks along with 19 earned runs. He ended up having Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2013.
When he returned to the mound in 2014 his command was much better, allowing him to strike out 27 while only allowing 10 walks and 10 hits in 19 2/3 innings. He was promoted to A-ball at Lexington, and then A+ with the Wilmington Blue Rocks where he began making starts. He has struck out more than a batter an inning at every level he’s played and in 2016 finally made some prospect lists.
This year he was ranked eighth best prospect in the Royals system by Baseball America. Our own Shaun Newkirk ranked him as the Royals fifth best prospect, both before the season started and in early May. In a composite ranking of all the Royals prospects before the season, Strahm ranked as the Royals' eleventh best prospect. J.J Cooper at BaseballAmerica.com had a Royals prospect chat in January and cited him as the best left-handed starting pitching prospect in their system.
Strahm was selected to the Royals 40-man roster this off season in order to protect him during the Rule-5 draft. He was also given his first invitation to spring training where he worked with pitching coach Dave Eiland on refining his change-up, and he impressed Royals coaches in camp.
Strahm began the year in AA Northwest Arkansas. There he had a 3.43 ERA to go with a 3.67 FIP. His HR/9 and BABIP both jumped a little. His strike out rate went down a bit but so did his walk rate. He was eventually moved to the bullpen to prevent him from exceeding his innings limits as well as to prepare him to help the big league team.
On July 31 Matt Strahm made his big league debut, against the Texas Rangers. He faced three batters, allowing one hit, one walk, one run, and striking out one.
Since then, however, Strahm has pitched 4 2/3 innings more without allowing another run while still striking out ten. That means he has now struck out eleven of twenty batters faced. It is really far too small a sample size to take any meaningful data from, but it would be criminal not to point out that along with his 1.80 ERA Matt Strahm currently boasts a 0.27 xFIP and a -0.06 FIP. Yes, you read that right, a negative FIP.
Many still seem divided on Strahm's future. Most scouts and other evaluators seem to think he has a place in a major league starting rotation as the fourth or fifth man. Some argue that the change-up still isn't a refined enough pitch and he will be relegated to lights out bullpen duty. Either way, it seems his future is likely in the big leagues, somewhere.