Luis Mateo, SP: Luis Mateo was a starting pitcher that was pegged to be a sleeper by many coming into this season. It is no wonder either because there’s a lot to like about Mateo — his frame (6’3”, 185 pounds), relatively young age (22 years old), and his stuff. Mateo sits at 95 MPH regularly (tops out at 97) and has a sharp slider. In the DSL last year, Mateo dominated by throwing 63 innings and striking out 85 while only walking 5. Those numbers earned him a ticket to Brooklyn this year.
Mateo picked up exactly where he left off last season in Brooklyn this year. In 73.1 innings of work he produced 85 Ks, 9 BBs, a 2.45 ERA, and only gave up 2 HRs all year. Batters hit .210 off him and that includes righties only hitting .189 against him all year. He dominated righty batters in 55 innings with 63 Ks and only 4 BBs. The lack of walks is pretty outstanding: in a combined 136 innings in two seasons, Mateo has struck out 170 and walked only 14. For a young power pitcher, that’s borderline unreal.
The knock on Mateo is his age. He is 22 years old and still hasn’t played a full season of professional baseball. However, that has not stopped him from making Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet last week, where they had this to say about his age:
“Yes, Mateo’s a little older than you’d like to see from a prospect who hasn’t hit full-season ball yet, but don’t get too hung up on the age. Since 2008, Mateo went nearly four years without being able to get his contract approved, first with the Giants over bone chips in his elbow and then a deal with the Padres that fell apart over age issues”
As one can see, there are reasons Mateo has been on a slow track through the minors. His slow track through the minors should not diminish his results however. What he is doing is impressive, no matter how one wants to slice it. One has to assume that his track through the minors will be sped up by the Mets next year. It is not out of the question to see him pitch in Savannah and St. Lucie next year. It is also not out of the question to see the Mets be aggressive with him and start him in St. Lucie with a promotion to Binghamton towards the end of the year.
Since Mateo has not played a full season of professional baseball, it would not be fair or accurate to really put a label on him right now. However, I would not argue with people who think he will be a top/middle of the rotation starter. The only problem with saying that this early, is he has no third pitch to really work with. He is already 22 years old, so next year Mateo needs to start showing a third pitch.
However, if that third pitch doesn’t work out for him he will no doubt have a role in the bullpen. At the very least he will be a righty specialist, but with Mateo it’s not hard for one to see the Mets future closer. It might be smarter for the Mets to fast track him to the majors with the plan for him to be their next closer. Along with Jeurys Familia, the Mets might have their next 1-2 punch in the bullpen for the next decade.