PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Steven Matz throws 95-mph fastballs with his left arm, which in and of itself makes him one of baseball's top prospects. Slowed by injuries throughout his Minor League career, Matz broke into the big leagues late last summer, proceeded to go 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA, then went on to pitch successfully in three postseason starts.
Through it all, Matz did not spend his rookie eligibility, which makes him still technically a prospect heading into this season.
An early look at the National League Rookie of the Year race has Matz and Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager pegged as the favorites, for good reason. Both are potential superstars. Both will be active on Opening Day. Both have already achieved notable big league success.
Now it's a matter of who achieves more in 2016.
"I expect to start right where I left off, and try to get better," Matz said. "I feel like that's what I did in the Minor Leagues. Each step of the way, I broke into a team and feel like I progressively got better. So that's what I'm going to try to do now, consistently facing big league hitters."
If he succeeds, Matz will join Seager as an odds-on Rookie of the Year favorite.
"I've heard that before," Matz said. "It's a great compliment. But at the same time, it means nothing."
Still, the fact that Matz is here at all means something significant. A former top Draft pick who struggled through injuries throughout his early tenure, including a complicated Tommy John rehabilitation, Matz spent much of his Minor League career watching Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard -- all of them drafted after him -- crack the big leagues. He spoke often to deGrom, a good friend, about the transition. So when he saw deGrom succeed immediately at baseball's top level, Matz came to realize that his mid-90s fastball could play in the big leagues, too.
Now Matz knows for certain, with last year's success behind him and this year's future coming into focus.
"It just gives you confidence when you pitch with those guys," Matz said. "You see the stuff that they have, and they've been through the same levels that you've been through. Then you see how they translate it. So watching them be able to do that … makes you realize you are capable of pitching there."