Throughout the current offseason, we’re reviewing all 316 players to appear in Houston’s system through the 2022 season.
J.J. Matijevic is a six-foot, 206 lb. lefty-hitting first baseman from Latrobe, PA. Born on November 14, 1995, he was first taken in the 2014 draft in the 22nd round by the Boston Red Sox. He decided instead to matriculate to the University of Arizona, and three years later was picked in the second round by Houston. Taken with the 75th overall choice, Matijevic is the 22nd player to make the majors after being taken at that spot. Tino Martinez leads the group with 29.0 WAR. Matijevic signed with the Astros to an initial contract that included at $700,000 signing bonus.
According to MLB Pipeline:
Since adopting a power-over-hit approach in pro ball, Matijevic has generated some of the best exit velocities in the system. His strength combined with the quickness and loft in his left-handed swing gives him natural pop to all fields.
Matijevic climbed up the Astros minor-league ladder at more-or-less an average pace, going up one level each season. In 2018, he made the Carolina League All-Star Team after slashing .266/.335/.513 with 19 homers and 57 RBI in 88 games.
Matijevic started the 2022 season with the Triple-A Sugar Land Space Cowboys, going 13-for-42 through his first 11 games with four homers and 10 RBI. That includes his performance on April 10, when he came a triple short of the cycle in an 8-1 win against the Sacramento River Cats. On April 22, he made his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. Matijevic struck out with runners on the corners to end the game. After going 0-for-4 five days later against the Texas Rangers, he rejoined the Cowboys.
From May 4 through June 2, Matijevic strung together a 17-game hitting streak, going 21-for-65 with four homers and 16 RBI. On June 10, he hit two solo homers and a double in a 3-2 win against the Las Vegas Aviators. He was recalled to the Astros on June 15. On June 19, he hit his first career home run in a 4-3 Houston win against the Chicago White Sox. He hit another on June 25 (see video below) On July 21, he entered a 2-2 tie with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and drove the winning run home with an infield single.
Matijevic went back to Sugar Land for two weeks in early August, played in a single contest for the Astros on August 18, rejoined the Cowboys for three games in late-August, and rejoined the Astros again near the end of the month. He spent the last two weeks back with Sugar Land.
Matijevic never really got his feet set at the major league level, with promotions and demotions seemingly all season long. In 32 games for the Astros, he went 14-for-67 with two doubles, two homers, and five RBI. He drew two walks and struck out 25 times, slashing .209/.254/.328. Defensively, he played 56 error-free innings at first base and one in left field.
At Triple-A, Matijevic put together a .285/.372/.561 slashline with 16 round-trippers and 54 RBI, with 33 walks and 68 strikeouts. He also stole 10 bases in 12 tries. FanGraphs projects Matijevic to play in 102 games and hit .226 with 18 home runs, but those projections don’t include future free agent signings, including the possibility of Yuli Gurriel.