Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting to Know Astros OF J.J. Matijevic

When I first set eyes on a top draft pick, I try to size up the player through observation before talking to him. However, when I saw OF J.J. Matijevic in Myrtle Beach earlier this month, it was only his third game following his promotion to Buies Creek and it was hard to tell whether or not his somewhat reserved demeanor was due more to his nature or his reluctance to draw too much attention to himself as he acclimated to his new team. In any event, personality-wise, Matijevic reminded me somewhat of when I first met Derek Fisher, appearing to be someone who is more reserved in a group setting and more open and engaging one-on-one, and someone who is very confident of his abilities.

J.J. Matijevic - May 2018
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Matijevic was drafted 75th overall in 2017 out of the University of Arizona as one of two compensation picks received from those cheatin' Cardinals. According to Matijevic, he was a little surprised at getting selected by the Astros as there were other teams that had actually seemed to show more interest in him. "There were a lot more teams that were talking to me a lot more (than the Astros). It didn't really matter what team I got drafted by. I wasn't trying to go to a particular team. Just the ability to be drafted and the chance that any team has given you is a blessing. You've just got to go to work," said Matijevic.

With that said, Matijevic is certainly enjoying his time with the Astros so far. "It's amazing. Everyone is the best at (their) job. The best organization in baseball. Everything they do, they just do it (so) well.  I love talking to other organizations and seeing how much better we are than them. It's good. It's really good."

Asked to give a scouting report on himself, Matijevic told me, "I'm definitely good at hitting. That was my main tool coming out of college. In college, power-wise and putting balls in play, things like that. Intangibles -- good leader, act like a professional, always work hard and play hard. That's one of the things that they're always talking about. Always play hard, stay on top of my teammates to try to lead them the best I can. Work on? Defense. I've been working in left field. It's getting better and better. Now I've just got to keep working at it."

Buies Creek Hitting Coach Ben Rosenthal also weighed in with his thoughts on Matijevic, "He's good. He's fun. He's got some crazy power. I think the biggest thing for him is just making sure that he's swinging at pitches he can handle consistently. He can be late and still hit a ball 90-something miles an hour opposite field. When he gets everything timed up and synced up, he can hit a ball over that shed out there. He's got high power potential. Defensively, a couple things to work on but it's going to be fun to watch him grow. He's open to learn and get better and wants to get better and wants to be better and for me that's all I can ask."

Matijevic was unfazed by his promotion to High A, "Hitting's hitting. It's hard whatever level you're at. The pitching's always going to be good. You've just got to keep working at it, the reps. You get better the more you play and the more ABs you get." In his first 14 games with Buies Creek, he is hitting .328/.344/.655 (.340/.393/.679 in 27 games so far for the season).

And he is similarly unfazed by the road ahead for him in a system as deep with talent as the Astros system is. "They have everything. They have outstanding players up there. I've just got to keep working hard. Maybe a couple of years, I'll get the call. But one step at a time. One day at a time. And just try to get better down here and try to improve as a baseball player and a person. Just keep going. The more talent, the harder you work. And you play against them so you learn from those players as well. You learn from them. You watch them. You just push yourself more and more everyday and try to be better than them. It's good that there's a lot of talent in the system," said Matijevic.

Similarly Matijevic watches and learns from his current teammates, "Everybody's a really good player. I love watching people and learning from them. My best friend up there in Quad Cities is Papierski, Michael Papierski, and I just love watching how hard he works. I feed off of that whenever we work out or hitting or defense, anything. He works so hard and I feed off that stuff. Ronnie here, hitting-wise, he's such a great hitter and I watch him too and just see tendencies of what he does and everything. Basically, we just learn from each other and no one really sticks out. We're all really good or else we wouldn't be here."

Off the field, Matijevic said of himself, "I'm a very chill person. I like to have fun with friends, play a lot of golf, big movie guy. I go to the movies a lot. I just like to chill and hang around people, have fun and stuff like that."

Whether my assessment of Matijevic being on the reserved side is correct or not, there are a couple of things I am reasonably sure of just through my observations of him. The tattoos on his arms suggest a deep faith in a higher power and his self-assured swagger suggests a deep faith in his own power. It is a compelling combination.

Thank you for your time, J.J., and best of luck as your season continues to unfold.

1 comment:

  1. Double J, continue to be the humble person I so enjoyed watching at Hi C. Bear Down.