WCU's Zebby Matthews Drafted by Minnesota Twins
By Daniel Hooker
Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
Western Carolina right-handed pitcher Zebby Matthews was drafted by the Minnesota Twins on Monday, July 18, the second day of the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft. Matthews was selected with the 234th overall pick in Monday’s eighth round, WCU’s highest draft selection since LHP Bryan Sammons went in the eighth round to the same Twins organization.
The 2022 MLB First-Year Player Draft concludes on Tuesday with rounds 11 through 20 beginning at 2:00 p.m., with live Draft Tracker and audio of the picks available online at www.MLB.com.
Matthews is the third Catamount baseball player drafted by Minnesota all-time and all have been pitchers joining Sammons (2017) and Colton Davis (2016). Sammons is currently with the Twins Double-A affiliate, the Wichita Wind Surge. Matthews is also the seventh Catamount drafted in the eighth round of the MLB Draft all time – and of those eighth-round picks, four advanced to play in the Big Leagues including Jared Burton (2002), David Pember (1999), Paul Menhart (1990), and Wayne Tolleson (1978).
Transferring home to Cullowhee after his freshman season at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn., Matthews pitched three seasons for the Catamounts including the abbreviated 2020 season. A two-time team captain, Matthews posted 13 career victories for the Catamounts, adding four saves after moving out of a starting role to the bullpen in the second half of 2022. He posted a career ERA of 3.58 with 211 career strikeouts, tied for 18th with former Catamount Ryan Basner, who was a seventh-round draft pick back in 2003.
Matthews paced the Southern Conference with 122 strikeouts – the third-best, single-season in WCU history – which included a league-best 46 strikeouts looking in 2022. He posted two, double-digit strikeout efforts with 10 against Stony Brook and a career-high tying 12 against UT-Martin, matching his dozen punchouts from 2021 against St. John’s. He additionally ranked inside the Top 30 nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio last season at 5.81, countering 21 walks with his 122 Ks.
Over his three seasons in the Purple & Gold, Matthews was a four-time SoCon Pitcher of the Week – thrice honored in 2021 and once in 2022 – and was a two-time Southern Conference Pitcher of the Month, collecting plaudits in February of 2021 and May 2022.
Six Southern Conference players have been drafted through the first 10 rounds of this year’s MLB Draft including three from Mercer and two from UNCG (listed below).
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Additional WCU Draft Notes: * On Monday afternoon, Western Carolina had a player selected in the Major-League Baseball First-Year Player Draft for the 34th year dating back to 1977 … WCU has had 37 draft picks inside the top 20 rounds all time;
* WCU has had SEVEN players drafted in the eighth round all-time including Zebby Matthews (Minnesota Twins, 2022) … Bryan Sammons (Minnesota Twins, 2017) … Jonathan Greene (Texas Rangers, 2007) … Jared Burton (Oakland A’s, 2002) … David Pember (Milwaukee Brewers, 1999) … Paul Menhart (Toronto Blue Jays, 1990) … and Wayne Tolleson (Texas Rangers, 1978)
* Of WCU’s seven eighth-round draft picks, FOUR went on to play in the Majors – Jared Burton (Reds, Twins) … David Pember (Brewers) … Paul Menhart (Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres) … Wayne Tolleson (Rangers, White Sox, Yankees);
* WCU did not have a player drafted in 2018, halting a streak of 12 consecutive years of hearing a Catamount name called during the three-day event … Since 2000, WCU has had a player drafted in 18 of the 23 drafts, missing just 2001, 2004, 2005, 2018 and 2020 – though the event was reduced to just 10 rounds in 2020 … During that same span without a draft pick, WCU did see RHP Chase Walter sign as a free agent with the San Diego Padres in 2020, Jared Greenwood as a free agent with the New York Yankees in 2005, and Matt Price signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001;
* WCU has only had one player play for the MLB club with Minnesota as former eighth-round Oakland Athletics draft pick in 2002 Jared Burton pitched for the Twins in 2012 and 2013;
* WCU has had three players taken inside the first 100 picks all-time, headlined by Rick Adair with the 53rd pick of the third round by the Seattle Mariners in the 1979 draft – WCU’s highest selection all-time ... Brad Tweedie (3rd round, 92nd pick by Cincinnati Reds in 1993) and Jason Beverlin (4th round, 93rd pick by Oakland Athletics in 1994);
*Under former head coach Bobby Moranda (2008-22), WCU saw a combined 25 players drafted by MLB Clubs with five – Jack Snyder (Rays, 2022), Chase Walter (Padres, 2020), Brendan Nail (Red Sox, 2017), Korey Anderson (Padres, 2017), and Jordan Smith (Tigers, 2014) – sign free-agent contracts to play professional baseball in the MLB system with at least six inking deals in the independent Frontier League.