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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

Matthew Etzel Is An Underdog

The 22-year-old is standing out from his 2023 draft class

*Cover Photo Credit: John Topoleski

When you think of the Orioles' 2023 draft class, the first names that come to mind are speed demon first rounder and former Vanderbilt standout Enrique Bradfield Jr., power-hitting infielder Mac Horvath, and strikeout machine Jackson Baumeister. Somehow, Matthew Etzel may not be the first name you think of.

Well from here on out, please remember it. Matthew Etzel is on the rise to becoming a special baseball player.

22-year-old Matthew Etzel is having a special 2024 season so far with 36 stolen bases. Photo: John Topoleski

The Orioles got Etzel, a 22-year-old from Webster, Texas, in the 10th round of last year's draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi. He only played one season of college baseball prior to being drafted and he hit .317 with 23 stolen bases in 66 games.

He got a brief sample size of pro ball after being drafted in 2023, and he did very well. In just 21 games between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen, he hit .314 with 2 home runs and 19 RBI. He stole 16 bases along the way.

Understandably so, there is only so much you can assume over a 21-game span. Can those results translate into a full season the following year? For Etzel, success and more has followed him into this year.

Etzel had been Aberdeen's most productive and most consistent hitter this season. Serving as a middle-of-the-order bat for manager Felipe Alou Jr., he hit .307 in 51 games for the 'Birds while posting an. 836 OPS. While hitting 4 home runs and collecting 37 RBI, he stole a ridiculous 31 bases and was only caught 6 times. The potent speed of Etzel was on full display, as was journey of the mysterous, higher-up and under-the-radar outfield prospect for the Orioles, the one that nobody really knew about...yet.

Etzel collected 5 RBI over his final four games with Aberdeen. His performance at A-ball was so stellar, that he received a promotion to Double-A Bowie on June 10. Etzel collected a hit in each of his first five games with Bowie, all of them at the Harrisburg Senators. He went 5-for-188 (.278) with 4 stolen bases during that 5-game span.

Since joining Bowie, Etzel is hitting .308 with an RBI, 3 walks, and 5 stolen bases.

When you look at Etzel, you see his 6'2" 211 lb. frame along with his big bad beard, and you may think "power hitting lumberjack." While Etzel may run into a home run here and there, power is actually not his primary skill, surprising as it may seem. Etzel is a pure hitter and uses a wholefield approach when hitting as he is not afraid to go opposite field and beat the opposing shifts. Think of soon-to-be Orioles Hall of Famer Nick Markakis' late career wholefield approach, and apply that to Etzel.

Etzel's primary skill that kills opposing teams is speed. He is a very aggressive and smart baserunner, and he kills opposing defenses with his speed and his ability to steal bases and set up run-scoring opportunities for his team. I mean, 36 stolen bases in 58 games this season is ridiculous. It looks like he's after Luis Valdez's 71 stolen base mark from 2022.

Matthew Etzel is someone that fans should be getting excited about. Photo: Grant DeVivo

It is no hidden fact that speed kills in the game of baseball, and both Etzel and the Orioles organization are using his speed to his full advantage as he continues to progress and as he helps the Orioles' prospect offense become more wholesome and versatile. Etzel has had a successful 2024 season and he is helping set a high standard for the baby birds of the future.

Now of course, this organization is stacked with outfield talent. There is almost too much outfield talent, and not everyone will make it to the highest stage in Oriole orange and black. Whether Etzel does or does it with another team one day, this is a player that everyone should have their eyes on, a player that everyone should root for.

Matthew Etzel. Remember the name. he is tearing it up this season and you'll see him swiping bags on a Major League field in the near future. Remember him.

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