Matt Eckelman

Born: October 6, 1993
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 240
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 21st Round, 645th Overall, 2016
How Acquired: Draft
College: St Louis University
Agent: N/A

Eckelman is a right-handed pitcher with a huge frame, a four-pitch mix and outstanding control.  The Pirates drafted him as a senior. He was injured during his junior season and pitched just seven times, throwing a total of 14 innings. As a sophomore, he was the closer for St Louis, posting a 1.63 ERA in 60.2 innings. He had a 1.64 ERA in 27 relief appearances during his freshman season. As a senior, he moved into the weekend rotation and threw 101 innings. He posted a 3.12 ERA, with 35 walks, 81 strikeouts and a .246 BAA. As a 22-year-old senior, he signed quickly and was assigned to Bristol.  After the draft, he was throwing in the low-90s, reaching 94.  He doesn’t have a consistent out pitch, but instead relies on good location.

R+:  5-3-0, 2.76 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 62.0 IP, 1.3 BB/9, 8.0 K/9

Eckelman was the most effective starter at Bristol.  In fact, until Mike Wallace moved out of the bullpen, he was the only effective starter and nearly the only effective pitcher.  Eckelman held opposing hitters to a line of 223/254/367, helped by a somewhat low BABIP of .266.  His K/9 was passable; league average was 8.5.

A:  5-6-0, 4.63 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 72.0 IP, 3.3 BB/9, 7.9 K/9

The performance of college draftees in the Appalachian League has to be viewed with a great deal of caution.  Eckelman did pitch well; among pitchers with at least ten starts he was third in ERA in 2016.  He moved up to West Virginia in 2017 and had less success.  He pitched mostly in long relief, but made three starts late in the year.  He got off to a rough start, posting an ERA of 6.29 in April and May, then settled down in June and July, with a 3.14 mark.  He struggled again in August.  Eckelman had a reverse platoon split.

A+:  4-0-6, 2.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 23.2 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
AA:  1-1-11, 1.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 24.2 IP, 5.5 BB/9, 6.2 K/9

Eckelman pitched out of the Bradenton bullpen until the end of June, then moved up to Altoona.  He served primarily as a closer at both stops.  He was very effective at Bradenton, with excellent walk and K rates.  Despite the impressive ERA, he was less effective at the higher stop.  His walk and K rates, in particular, got dramatically worse, possibly because hitters were less inclined to chase pitches a little off the plate.  At Altoona, Eckelman benefited from an unsustainable batting average on balls in play of .233.  His xFIP, which is a better indicator than ERA, was 4.93 in AA.

AA:  1-5-23, 3.33 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 48.2 IP, 4.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
AAA:  0-0-0, 15.43 ERA, 4.29 WHIP, 2.1 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 7.7 K/9

Other than filling in briefly a couple times at Indianapolis, Eckelman spent the season at Altoona, mainly as the closer.  He pitched decently but not well, with an opponents’ OPS that was higher than the league average, .722 vs. .677.  He had trouble with left-handed hitters, allowing them an .812 OPS compared to .613 for right-handed hitters.


AAA:  3-5-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 66.0 IP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.4 K/9

Eckelman spent the season in the Indianapolis bullpen, serving the same role there that James Marvel and Beau Sulser did in the rotation.  He gave the team innings, often when the starter left early.  Eckelman threw strikes, but opponents batted .303 against him and he gave up a dozen home runs.

A+:  1-0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 18.0 IP, 7.0 BB/9, 5.5 K/9
AA:  1-0-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 3.8 K/9
AAA:  0-3-0, 7.67 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 31.2 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 7.7 K/9

Eckelman’s 2022 season got off to a terrible start for Indianapolis.  Hitters blasted him for a 1.183 OPS in April and .990 in May.  In late July the Pirates sent him down to Greensboro and he began working on a knuckleball.  He had a lot of trouble with walks at first, but got better results in four September games for Altoona.

Eckelman is eligible for minor league free agency.  It’d make sense for the Pirates to try to sign him to a minor league deal for 2023 to see where the knuckleball experiment might go.

2022: Minor league contract
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2016
MLB Debut:
MiLB FA Eligible: 2022
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2019
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
June 11, 2016: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 21st round, 645th overall pick; signed on June 16.