The Cincinnati Reds have selected catcher Matheu Nelson (goes by Mat) out of Florida State with their 1st round comp A pick in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.

Mat Nelson Scouting Report

Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 209

Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Position: Catcher

Highest Ranking: 37th (Fangraphs)

Already 22-years-old, Mat Nelson is among the oldest juniors in the country in this draft. He’s coming off of a huge season with Florida State where he hit .330/.436/.773 with 17 doubles, 23 home runs, and 66 RBI. He walked 31 times but also struck out 58 times in just 53 games played.

Nelson has above-average power and can use it to all parts of the field. He’s also got a plus arm behind the plate and he’s a good defensive catcher. The concerns are there with just how much he can hit, though as he racked up high strikeout totals in college and struggles with quality secondary offerings. As a catcher the bar to hit isn’t as high as it is with other spots on the field, but the defense and power seem like they will work. How he will adjust to professional secondary offerings and how that effects just how much he can hit is the big question that makes Nelson a high risk, high reward kind of player.

Mat Nelson Video

Mat Nelson College Stats

Mat Nelson College Stats

Instant Reaction

You love the idea of the power and the defense that Mat Nelson brings to the table. But in a day and age when pitchers are striking guys out more than ever before, a hitter who struggles to make contact in college is incredibly risky even if they play a position where the bat is the last thing you worry about. Catchers see more pitches than anyone, so they should have a better grasp of the strikezone and pitch identification than other players. Still, Nelson struck out 25% of the time this past season in college against a bunch of pitchers who won’t be pros for the most part. As noted above – there’s a high risk/high reward here. The risk is that he can’t make enough contact to hit well enough to progress up the ladder. The upside is that he figures it out and can be a .250 hitter with 25 home runs and quality defense behind the plate and a staple in your lineup.

Scouting Director Brad Meador on Mat Nelson

“He’s a really good defensive catcher. He improved offensively this year. He has really good power. Another guy, anyone you talk to will tell you how good a make up player he was in college. All of the intangibles that go with the position that you’re looking for he has. Another guy we met with at the combine and was really impressive to sit down with.”

Click here to see the other scouting reports from the 2021 Major League Baseball Draft from the Cincinnati Reds.

29 Responses

  1. MK

    Appears to be a sound pick. I imagine he will start at Daytona.

  2. RobL

    I read that he will be a cheaper sign because of his age. His stat line reminds me of Chris Okey coming out. However, his defense is not highly regarded. This was a money pick with a loud tool. Would have preferred the senior pitcher, but maybe he cost more.

  3. Rhaye

    For what it’s worth, one of the last things the Fangraphs prospect guys answered tonight was their thoughts on the Reds draft — they said they thought the Reds killed it tonight and loved their draft.

  4. MBS

    I like the pick. Maybe a Miller (L) / Nelson (R) tandem in a few years. I’d like the Reds to extend Barnhart through 24. I’d also like Stephenson to take over 1B full time next year.

    • Hanawi

      Stephenson isn’t taking over 1st base next year unless the DH comes. That would weaken the team. Votto has a nearly .900 OPS since the beginning of June and is a better player than Tucker right now. Reds’ fans are absolutely delusional when it comes to Joey.

      • Woodrow

        Stephenson seems to show he’s going to be a good major leaguer for a good amount of time, but perhaps not beyond average behind the plate, if that. (BRef has him at -16 runs defensively, extrapolated for a full 2021.)

        Certainly things change and players develop in different ways, but a Nelson arrival timeline might dovetail just past the end of the Votto contract… Will Stephenson hit enough to play first could be the question for a later day.

      • MBS

        I am assuming the DH, I’m not trying to run Votto out of town. The opposite really, if Votto DH more, he has a better chance to stay healthy and productive. Playing catcher is tough on a tall guy like Stephenson. 1B will keep him Fresher to.

    • Colorado Reds

      Would have preferred a top pitcher at this pick.
      Understand high risk/reward, but a top pitcher is better.
      GO REDS

  5. kevinz

    Knew very little about this player.
    Reds love drafting catchers though.
    So hopefully is a hit.
    Crapshoot so who knows anyway.

  6. Peter

    Did Doug not take his performance last year as the better indicator of how he’ll do in the pros? Mat had a .330 batting average, .436 on-base percentage and .776 slugging percentage that included 64 hits, 17 doubles and 23 home runs. Those “bunch of pitchers” that Mat faced and Doug summarily dismissed were some of the best in college baseball even if they don’t get drafted.

    Sure, 58 strikeouts seems like a lot but not in relation to his slugging percentage and number of HR’s hit. Because FSU’s overall offense in 2021 was sadly lacking after coach Mike Martin retired, Mat felt a lot of pressure to hit for extra bases every time he was at bat.

    The Reds made a great choice in picking him and he won’t disappoint them whether standing next to home plate or crouching behind it.

    • Doug Gray

      58 strikeouts in a college season is a ton no matter how much you slug. It’s not impossible to overcome, but that’s an incredibly high rate of strikeouts at the college level.

      But yes, college pitchers that aren’t drafted are going to be, and should be dismissed when it comes to determining how someone will perform against future professionals because the future professionals are significantly better. It’s why they were drafted and became professional baseball players instead of architects.

      I never said Mat Nelson was a mistake of a pick. I did say he’s a risky pick with a lot of upside. Thanks for swinging by Peter.

      • Gaffer

        Feels like the Stubbs pick, one great tool,good defense . . . . But can’t hit because can’t hit anything with a wrinkle.

      • Doug Gray

        If it turns into a Stubbs-like career then it’s an enormous win for the scouting department.

    • RojoB

      Peter Nelson?

      Anyway—there was a college baseball season last year?

      • RedsKoolAidDrinker

        Ha Rojo was gonna say the same thing.

    • RojoB

      More sincerely, Peter, as a Reds fan I am now a Mat Nelson fan too and I hope he becomes a star!

  7. amdg

    Big power, tons of strike outs, and a hit tool that isn’t projected to be anything special?

    Seems like Nelson could be a 0.220 / 0.300 / 0.450 guy in the majors, who you use as a backup catcher.

    Perhaps the catcher version of Juan Francisco?

    • RojoB

      If he’s better than Chris Okey turned out then maybe.

      All the players lost a year of experience—here’s hoping that most of these picks develop into contributing players!

  8. Tampa Red

    I’m an FSU alum and huge fan of the program. Matt Nelson is a stud behind the plate. He’s a better catcher right now than his predecessor Cal Raleigh, who made his MLB debut yesterday for the Mariners. And he’s better defensively right now than Tyler Stephenson, who after 6 years in the minors is a pretty big disappointment behind the plate, love him at the the plate though!

    As a hitter, Nelson has come a long way. He changed his entire hitting approach this season. If you’re interested, search YouTube and Warchant, there’s a 30 minute interview with him where he talks about how he came to FSU as a dead pull hitter and decided it wasn’t working for him, and this year he sold out on staying up the middle. I watched tons of FSU baseball on ACC network this year. He was a completely different guy at the plate.

    Lastly, there are plenty of ACC pitchers that will play professionally. Almost every Fri-Sat starter the Seminoles played was throwing 95. Miami, NC, Clemson, Louisville, Virginia, Ga Tech. I mean, Pitt and Duke of all teams had guys throwing gas and 12-6 curveballs. NC State had several impressive guys on their staff, and it’s a shame they didn’t get the chance to finish off Vandy in the CWS. Point is, Matt Nelson didn’t lead the entire country in HR’s by feasting on crap pitching.

  9. AllTheHype

    This pick seems like a reach. Bat to ball skills are tough to teach or learn, and usually don’t work out if a player does not already possess the skill.

  10. Brad

    The Reds really like drafting Catchers in early rounds. Does Nelson sign for below slot as an older Junior?

    I like Nelson’s profile more than previous college draftee, Chris Okey. The “average tools across the board” guys rarely become more than a bench player. Guys like Nelson with 1-2 carrying tools generally have a better shot at being an average or better everyday player.

    Baseball is different but only Allen of the 3 has a direct path to an everyday role with Reds when Senzel becomes a free agent after 2025 season. Allen will be in age-23 season, I believe. Hope they extend Winker who is a FA after 2023 and Castellanos after 2024 unless opting out before then and Hendrick also a 1st round guy in RF. McLain behind India/Barrero through 2026 and beyond, unless he moves to CF too. Nelson behind Stephenson through 2026 as well.

    Good problem to have with high-level talent depth up the middle.

    Hope to see a player like LHSP Mikulski, RHSP Mace, RHSP Hill, RF Wood or top available HS guys at #53.

    • AllTheHype

      Okey’s college junior year offensive stats @ Clemson were better than Nelson’s. Okey didn’t have the glaring K problem that Nelson has, at least not quite as bad. Yet Okey has still been way overmatched as a professional offensively. Nelson will most likely follow a similar path, with worse bat to ball skills than Okey. Don’t like this pick at all.

      Okey .339/.465/.611 17.2% BB, 18.2 % K
      Nelson .330/.436/.773 13.1% BB, 24.5 % K

    • AllTheHype

      The only good thing about this pick is it should be quite a bit under slot. Nelson has little leverage in negotiations.

  11. doofus

    Nelson won the 2021 Johnny Bench award for a college catcher.

  12. Harold Morse

    Regardless of how this young catcher plays, he can be coached and will get better, but every system needs catchers to service so many pitchers.