Despite never having played a full-season in rookie-ball Yankees prospect Jorge Mateo is getting a lot of love. Mateo was ranked as the team’s third best Yankee prospect by Baseball America and was called the team’s shortstop of the future by Fangraphs.com. Additionally he was seemingly praised by Ben Badler the moment he signed with the team and was considered to be a very good low-key international signing by the team.
He is probably the most exciting, young, legitimate Yankee hitting prospect since Gary Sanchez, or Ravel Santana. He has an amazing set of tools, and so far has had the stats—albeit in a small sample size– to back them up. Mateo didn’t play a lot this year, but when he did he was consistently the best performer on the field.
Mateo was younger than the league’s average age, and started the year off hot, but after just two weeks in the league his season was derailed by inflammation in his left wrist. That took him out for most of the year. Despite playing so few games, he was still ranked 4th in the Gulf Coast League by Baseball America. This is mostly because of his tools; he is considered to have plus-plus speed, a plus arm, and at least average power, and defensive ability. He is a very good athlete who has drawn comparisons to Desean Jackson. In terms of baseball ability, Josh Norris from BA compares his overall package to Jose Reyes.
And his play certainly warrants such praise. Let’s start with his speed tool, because it is his clearest strength. Mateo displayed his speed in essentially every game this year, he stole 11 bags in just 15 games. But to truly see his impact we should look at what he did in a full season in 2013, and use a stat called wSB. wSB is an estimation of the amount of runs a base-stealer contributes to his team compared to an average player. Having a wSB of 1 means you contributed one more win than the average player.
In 2013 Mateo contributed 6.1 more runs than the average player, and in 15 games this past season he had a wSB of 1.6. This is impressive by itself but when you factor in his opportunities to steal bases you see just how elite he really can be. At the end of the 2013 season Fangraphs Carson Cistulli wrote an article searching for the best minor-league base stealers of the season and used wSB/100 PA, to show that Mateo could actually be considered a better base-stealer than Terrance Gore and just .1 run less productive than Billy Hamilton. Mateo’s wSB/100 of 6.6 ranked him fourth minors behind: Jeffrey Baez, Adam Law, and Billy Hamilton.
While we can see from his stats that he does have a plus-speed, his other tools are a harder to gauge. Defensive stats in the minors are a lot less advanced, and offensive stats are less reliable in the lower levels. Additionally, Mateo didn’t really play a lot of games this season. With that said he did do well offensively when has played. He had a wOBA of .361, and wRC+ of 119 last year despite being younger than the average player in rookie-ball. His power numbers however were a bit down last year, and he only had an ISO of .121.
Hopefully he has a more complete season next year, because he exactly the type of prospect the Yankees need. They really haven’t had a player with his combination of tools and production in a long time, and he plays in arguably the most important position on the field. While I think ranking him third was a bit aggressive, and I can see why BA did it.