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2021 report card: Nick Maton

Dear Nick, I feel like I can call you Nick because you and me are so alike. I’d like to meet you one day, it would be great to have a catch. I know I can’t throw as fast as you but I think you’d be impressed with my speed.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Full disclosure: I am just writing this report card because I want Nick Maton to notice me. Hi Nick!
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

All things considered, Nick Maton didn’t have a very interesting season. He was exactly what the prospect gurus said he would be: a slightly below average hitter and a versatile defender who played a competent enough shortstop. He came up to the majors at the exact age you would have expected him to, and he served as a replacement level backup infielder on a .500ish team.

Nevertheless, he managed to become a fan favorite this season, thanks to a combination of factors. There was his hot start, when he hit .348/.388/.457 with a 128 wRC+ for the first two weeks of his big league career. There was his 2-homer game in May against the Blue Jays, and the game where he pitched, recorded a strikeout, and then got checked for foreign substances.

It also helped his case that the Phillies’ other main options at shortstop were Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes, two of the worst hitters in baseball. While Gregorius and Torreyes were favorites of Joe Girardi’s, the young Maton struggled to get his manager’s attention. Supporting Nick Maton became a small way for Phillies fans to rebel against Joe Girardi’s clear favoritism towards veteran players.

Maton was the Phillies best option at shortstop all season long. That’s not saying much, but it’s an accomplishment for Maton nonetheless. His 91 wRC+ was best among Phillies shortstops, and his 0.5 fWAR was only one tick lower than the 0.6 fWAR that Torreyes put up, and Torreyes had nearly three times as many plate appearances.

2021 stats

52 games, 131 PA, .256/.323/.385, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 0.5 fWAR

The good

The bad

Unfortunately for Maton, after his hot streak from April 19 to May 2, the rest of his season wasn’t so magical. He hit .197/.284/.338 with a 68 wRC+ from May 3 through the end of the year. While that’s pretty dreadful, it’s worth pointing out that Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes had eerily similar batting lines from May 3 through to October. Gregorius hit .200/.268/.368 with a 69 wRC+, while Torreyes hit .243/.287/.348 with a 69 wRC+. So while Maton was a pretty bad hitter, at least he wasn’t taking plate appearances away from anyone better.

The future

While Maton didn’t play all that much this season, when he was on the field he played exactly the way we expected him to. He should fill a similar role next season, shuttling back and forth between the majors and the minors as necessary. He’ll surely see time with the big league club in 2022, but Dave Dombrowski would be wise to stock the back of the roster with some decent bench bats and defensive replacements so the Phillies aren’t forced to rely on Maton too much.

Final grade: B+

Maton met all expectations and gave us a couple of pretty exciting moments along the way. Best of all, he provided us with some reprieve from the mess that was Didi Gregorius. He’ll have to improve next season if he wants to get a B+ again, but I’m perfectly happy with how Maton performed in 2021.