Literally the forgotten first baseman in the Mets organization, who has done nothing but hit, and sometimes near the caliber of their top 1B Dominic Smith. Oberste has essentially been eternally tied to Smith from the day he started full season ball and was drafted seven rounds after him in 2013. He has played the last three years as second fiddle to the top prospect across A-ball, Advanced-A, and Double-A. Oberste has his own strengths and abilities, but an uphill battle to climb.
(Photo Credit: MILB/ Helen Haessler)
1B/3B Matt Oberste (College Stats)
R/R, 6’2″ 240 lbs, 8/9/1991 (25), Drafted in the 7th round out of the University of Oklahoma
Poor Oberste over the years hasn’t gotten much fanfare. A three-sport athlete in high school playing Basketball, averaging 16 points a game, Football, accounting for 31 touchdowns, and Baseball hitting .500, Oberste was once the Oklahoma high school athlete of the year, but didn’t get a scholarship to a Division 1 school, and wasn’t drafted, so he attended at Connors State Junior College. In Connors State, he hit .418 and hit 38 extra base hits despite having a shoulder injury and didn’t get picked again. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma in 2012 and despite a forearm injury in 2013, raked, including a 30-game hitting streak. He was signed for 325,000, which was very much over the $185,700 slot value assigned to the 7th round pick.
Mets signed him over slot and sent him to Short Season-A Brooklyn where he struggled hitting 12 extra base hits, including 3 home runs and 7 doubles. His slash line was .208/.245/.286 and only walked 10 times in 273 plate appearances.
It wasn’t a good starting point for the college performer, but he redeemed himself the next year with a .274/.320/.435 performance in 91 games, giving hope that he would hit for power, hitting 8 homers, and 34 extra base hits overall in 91 games while playing half his season at the toughest park for hitters in the Minor Leagues at Historic Grayson. During the season, he switched first base duties often with Smith.
The next year, at St. Lucie he hit .301/.359/.430, with 36 extra base hits. He continued to switch roles with Smith at first base while Dominic had his MVP season. He improved on his walk and strikeout rate, and hit for a little bit of power, including .298/.347/.439 against righthanded pitchers. Oberste remained in the shadows on a nice St. Lucie team that featured other top prospects such as consensus #1 Amed Rosario, righty pitcher who succumbed to Tommy John Surgery Marcos Molina, and Jhoan Urena, who underperformed after a promising year at Brooklyn the past year.
This was enough to send him to Binghamton, where the Mets felt he should have his own position. Oberste started playing third base, and was shuttled between there, first base again with Smith, and designated hitter. Oberste again had a good year, hitting for a career high of 9 home runs, but hit less extra base hits overall with 32 in 124 games. Oberste slashed .283/.340/.409 but walked less at St. Lucie than in Binghamton but struck out less. Oberste played a career high 124 games in a season as a versatile option for the team in the corner infield positions.
He was sent to the Arizona Fall League, an October showcase with elite talent, and did not do well, hitting .184/.208/.304 with a home run and 3 doubles. Even Tim Tebow, who hasn’t played Baseball competitively since 2004 in High School hit better (with one less home run and 6 more games) than he in the AFL (.194/.296/.242) to give a scope of the poor performance. It has likely made the choice to move him forward to the next level a little harder for the Mets.
This year, Oberste is poised to join Las Vegas, but I’m not sure in what capacity as Smith continues to man the first base position, and Phillip Evans will likely play third. Oberste may shuttle between the two and play as a designated hitter in Vegas, but likely play less games than in Binghamton.
Oberste is a big guy, standing at 6’2″ and 240 pounds. He features a nice short stroke with a slightly aggressive approach, waiting to hit his pitch and make some contact to the gaps, but does not have great enough patience to have a good on-base-percentage. He makes really nice hard contact, but he doesn’t show much leverage so these line drives hit the wall and the gaps instead of clearing them.
While he hasn’t hit for much power, he definitely has the frame to do so, possibly hitting more than 20 homers if he can work it into his game, but hasn’t shown it in the way he should. While he was a year younger, it took Lucas Duda until he got to Triple-A (albeit at Buffalo, which isn’t an offensive haven) to hit for more power, with 23 home runs in 2010. While Oberste has the power, he didn’t have it manifest to the point of Duda, nor does he have the offensive advantage of a left-handed swing like Duda. With offensive first basemen, having a right handed swing that didn’t hit for power is really hard to justify at the major league level irregardless of how effective it has been in the minor leagues.
Oberste is still very athletic and moves well at first and at third base. His speed is merely below-average (40 on the scouting scale). He has decent hands and good instincts while fielding both positions. Unfortunately, his arm is below average after all these forearm and shoulder injuries that reduced his ability to throw, so it’s a question whether he can stick at third base, which seems like his only route to the major leagues with David Wright being mostly shelved at this time. If he can improve that arm strength and make some nice throws at third, he may be a future option. Once again, hard to justify a light-power right handed hitting first baseman if he can’t.
Oberste’s ceiling with these difficulties is hard to pin down, but he’s a nice piece to look out for moving forward. As previously stated, he will likely play in Vegas in 2017, and power should be the thing people look to see, even with the thin-air climate of the Pacific Coast League.
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