By Meagan Bens, Times Staff Writer
Opting to stay home and watch the MLB draft online from his couch, Matthew Liberatore placed an old school Devil Rays cap on his head and celebrated with his circle of family and friends Monday when Tampa Bay drafted him with its 16th overall pick.
Here's three things to know about Liberatore:
He’s tall and polished
A 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., Liberatore was projected as high as No. 7 on mock drafts at MLB.com. Former MLB pitcher Dan Plesac said he was the most polished pitcher in the high school draft and has potential as he grows into his tall, slender frame. His fastball ranges in the low-90s and can touch up to 97 according to the MLB website, and his fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, and control gather a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Although there are better fastballs among the draft class, Liberatore's profile on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200 says he has the potential to develop three pitches to acquire a 60 on the scouting scale.
He gives back to the community
Topping off his senior year at Mountain Ridge, Liberatore was named 1st team on the 2018 Perfect Game Preseason All-American and All-Region Teams, according to PerfectGame.org, and he led his team to the Conference 6A state championship game. Other than his notable athletic performance, Liberatore was the first athlete at his school to be named the Gatorade Arizona Baseball Player of the Year. The award acknowledged his weighted 4.14 GPA and his volunteer work at a homeless shelter, time serving as a youth baseball coach, and contribution to a fundraising campaign to benefit Rady's Children's Hospital-San Diego.
"It hadn't really crossed my mind (about the award) until my dad mentioned it to me earlier in the year, but I never thought I would actually win it," Liberatore said in a recent interview with his community's paper, The Glendale Star. "It was definitely an honor and cool to win and it is a great group to be part of."
He’s performed on big stages
In addition to closing his senior high school season with an 8-1 record, a 0.93 ERA, and 104 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings, Liberatore has thrown 12 shutout innings for the U-18 U.S. National Team. His six scoreless frames at the 2017 U-18 World Cup in Canada contributed to their gold medal win over Korea. If he chooses to not honor his commitment to play at University of Arizona next season, Liberatore will be a top left-hander in his draft class to add to the Rays' roster.
Contact Meagan Bens at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MeaganBensND