Matt Tabor had entered the 2017 MLB amateur draft, the first one for Mike Hazen as GM of the Diamondbacks, with a bit of a drum roll because of some impressive results while pitching for the Milton Academy, a high school in Massachusetts.
He moved from shortstop to pitching just 3 years earlier, had a growth spurt and then enjoyed a velocity boost early in 2017 which caught the attention of MLB scouts. Sites like Baseball America and Fangraphs included him in their top 100 draft lists, with Baseball America moving him to 58 and Fangraphs to 70:
“Tabor weighed 150 pounds as a junior but has added weight and velocity over the last calendar year and has been up to 96 this spring while sitting around 93 with the fastball and he remains physically projectable. His quickly-paced, overhand delivery isn’t pretty but it has some natural deception and allos his changeup to play up. He has some breaking ball feel as well and profiles toward the back of a rotation, though he could grow into a fastball that allows him to exceed that projection.” - FanGraphs pre-draft report about Matt Tabor in 2017
Ahead of that amateur draft he pitched a complete game and was elected best baseball high school talent of Massachusetts in 2017, with a 0.42 ERA in 42 innings with 75 strikeouts, putting a bit more of a testimony to his aspirations. He was to sign with Elon University but considering to turn pro.
The Diamondbacks picked Matt Tabor in the 3rd round and went way over slot money to sign the right-hander for $1,000,000. The New England native was the first pitcher to be picked by the Hazen-regime in the amateur draft, so they must have really liked him.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would regret my whole life if I didn’t do” - Matt Tabor quoted on his decision to forego college, in Milton Magazine in 2017
He didn’t throw much in his first pro season, but the expectations for 2018 were rather high, with MLB Pipeline ranking him at #9 in their Top 30, with a 50 FV, hoping for Tabor to add some velocity to his fastball and see his two secondary pitches, change-up and slider, improve.
The next years Tabor isn’t able to erase the question mark about his fastball. It doesn’t get the hoped rise in velocity and the prospect sites question Tabor’s ceiling, hinting more at his floor of a back-end starter. They drop him lower and lower on their Diamondbacks top prospect lists. But he is able to maintain his good results and is praised for his command of the strike zone, although he doesn’t really wipe out batters.
In 2021 he gets his first taste of AAA and is knocked around quite hard: he goes 1-4 in 8 starts, with a 11.13 ERA, giving up 14 homeruns in 32.1 innings. Tabor is Rule 5 eligible that off-season and in an article on this site over 80% of readers vote to add Tabor to the 40-man, despite the struggles in Reno. The Diamondbacks, however, leave him off the 40-man roster but with the upcoming strike the Rule 5 doesn’t take place.
In an article on LinkedIn, Matt Tabor explains what happened once he was called up to Reno:
“After throwing a complete game no hitter in AA at age 22, and earning a promotion to AAA, I was on top of the world. Less than a month later, my velocity dropped 8mph and I struggled badly. After multiple misdiagnoses, a second opinion finally identified the problem - 2 blood clots in my shoulder. A minor surgical procedure alleviated the issue, but poor timing led to a missed 2022 season.
After not only coming back healthy, but restoring my velocity, I was ready to show the world what the last 5 years of success, adversity, and everything in between had culminated into. Unfortunately, in a Spring Training simulated game, I felt a tug in my elbow, which required my first Tommy John surgery.” - Matt Tabor on Linked in April 2023
“The one thing no one can take from you is self belief” #TJ #RoboArm #TheComeback #HeardItHereFirst #WeComin #97 pic.twitter.com/VRCfStWjGN— Matt Tabor (@mtabor22) April 12, 2023
Indeed, after the 2021 season he pitched just 1.2 innings in Amarillo and we were all guessing what had happened. Now we know and Tabor emphasises that he is determined to get back healthy and give it one more try in 2024, although probably not in the Diamondbacks organisation. Until then he will focus on finishing his bachelor in Marketing and at the moment he is doing an internship with Avnet in Phoenix while recovering from TJ.
We wish Matt Tabor good luck in the rest of his career and feel sorry for the way his promising career has been derailed so heavily by injuries.