There is little doubt that the most fun player to watch in New York Yankees camp this spring has been Jorge Mateo. While he’s far from a finished product, the 20-year-old shortstop’s raw tools are undeniable. His 80 grade speed already puts him in an elite club with players like Billy Hamilton, Billy Burns, and Jarrod Dyson.
In his second spring training at bat, Mateo ripped a triple. The impressive part was, he didn’t even start running until he reached first base because he thought the ball was gone. To be fair, it missed clearing the fence by inches. The play still wasn’t close.
Unlike the guys named above, Mateo looks like he might develop some pop. He hit his first home run of 2016 within his first 13 PAs, bringing him to within one of tying his total from the 2015 season in 500 trips to the plate. It wasn’t a cheap shot either. It was a no doubter off the bat that easily cleared the wall in deep left-center field.
This time he learned his lesson and sprinted out of the box, losing his helmet in the process. As his body continues to fill out over the next few years, he should be able to add a few more of those. Baseball America, who named him New York’s number one prospect this winter, forecasts him to have league-average power. With his speed and plus contact ability, that could be a formidable combination.
If anything, Mateo’s performance on the other side of the ball has been even more impressive. With his range and plus arm, he looks ready to step in as an above-average shortstop whenever he gets the call. This effortless throw from deep in the hole to nail Orioles farmhand Joey Rickard shows you everything you need to know:
This has brought up the question of how the Yankees plan to align their defense when Mateo is ready. With Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro under team control for the next four seasons, this is bound to come up eventually. The Reds moved Billy Hamilton to center field successfully when faced with a similar situation.
With his arm strength, Mateo could also be the successor to Chase Headley at the hot corner. Of course, with an ETA of 2018 according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, the team has some time before they really have to worry about this. Mateo will likely be among the first round of cuts when that announcement finally comes. Until then, Yankee fans can enjoy this exciting glimpse of what the future holds.