Brice Matthews accomplished a feat this season no Nebraska player had done before. The Nebraska junior shortstop became the first player to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season in program history.
Matthews’ performance was the culmination of his first two years of hard work. He joined the Huskers in 2020-21 as an impressive athlete with above-average speed after being a highly-talented prep baseball and football player in Texas.
The Nebraska coaching staff helped Matthews develop into a well-rounded baseball player. Matthews’ development and performance in his three years at Nebraska has led to him receiving interest for the MLB draft, beginning July 9. Scouts project Matthews as a likely first- or second-round pick.
“It is always something I dreamed of,” Matthews said. “It’s different when you are actually experiencing it compared to what you thought it would be when you were younger. It’s pretty cool.”
Scouts rave about Matthews’ athleticism and well-rounded skill set. The 6-foot, 190-pound shortstop uses a quick and compact right-handed swing to drive the ball into the gaps. The ball jumps off of his bat and allows him to make loud contact.
Matthews can be an impact hitter in pro ball, but scouts want to see him cut down on his swings and misses.
Defensively, his athleticism allows him to move well laterally and cover a lot of ground up the middle of the diamond. He has solid arm strength, but his accuracy needs to improve after he committed 21 errors this spring.
“I’m an athlete,” Matthews said. “I feel like I can do everything on the baseball field except pitch and catch. It’s just having fun out there and maximizing my athleticism. I just use that to my advantage with being athletic on the field and at the plate.”
Since his college season ended, Matthews has dedicated time to improving his defensive skills. He also has worked on his swing mechanics to drive the ball to the right side of the field more consistently.
If he can refine his plate discipline and reduce his defensive errors, Matthews has the ability and potential to be one of the better players in this year’s class. Scouts rave about his massive upside if everything clicks in pro ball.
“I just need to dominate the routine play and not make it more than it is,” said Matthews on improving defensively. “I need to catch the ball, field the ball and throw the ball.”
Besides Matthews, Nebraska second baseman Max Anderson and left-handed pitcher Emmett Olson also are likely early-round picks in this year’s draft.
Playing alongside other well-regarded players aided in Matthews’ development. He hit .273 and .261 as a freshman and sophomore, respectively. He tallied just 12 home runs between his first two years.
This season, Matthews batted .359 with 11 doubles, 20 home runs, 67 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 265 plate appearances. He showed improved plate discipline with 53 strikeouts and 47 walks.
“It was not making it more than it is,” said Matthews on the key to his 20-20 season. “It’s just a game, and the results are going to be the results. You just have to have a short memory no matter if you do good or bad. Having as much fun as possible and making it about everyone else besides yourself takes all the pressure off you.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.