Mateo More Focused

Shortstop Jorge Mateo entered the 2014 season with a ton of physical tools that made him stand out in the Dominican Summer League a year ago. He quickly showed them off again this year in the United States but his entire game came together better by season's end and into the Instructional League due an overall improved mental focus, and he says he's not done in that regard.

One of the true standout performers during Extended Spring Training this year, Jorge Mateo started off his debut season in the United States in extremely strong fashion, hitting .372 with eleven stolen bases in his first 11 games before injuring his wrist when he got plunked in a game and thus putting him on the disabled list for essentially the ensuing seven weeks.

So while the overall numbers stood at just .276 in 15 Gulf Coast League games, he can't help but feel it was still a strong season for him overall.

"I feel good right now," he said. "I feel much better. I injured my wrist this season and it wasn't good, but I practiced hard and worked hard, and feel much better now."

It took him a few games to shake off the proverbial rust upon his return but he was once again an impact performer during this year's Instructional League season, hitting home runs, stealing bases, and being the consistent performer he had been prior to the injury. He went from 'toolsy' to 'consistent' in one short season this year and he knows exactly how.

"I [have improved] my focus in the games," said Mateo, who also also worked very hard behind the scenes to speak English. "If I have a 4-4 or an 0-4 in the game I am the same every time. I am the same every time with my teammates.

"I don't care what happens, I am the same every time now. I think my hitting got better this season because of it."

Perhaps the language barrier that still exists prevents him from labeling it as such but the bottom line is he's quickly learning how to become a professional ball player. He's not trying to do too much anymore and he's allowing the game to come to him more naturally rather than pressing the issue on his own.

"Before the season I'd swing at pitches high, down, every pitch," he admitted. "I didn't have much focus at the plate. This season at the plate I'd focus on each [pitch] and put a good swing on it so I got better."

His rising consistent play wasn't just limited to the batter's box either. In the field he went from extremely toolsy but erratic to one who made every routine play and some of the more impossible plays look routine.

"Obviously I've been working hard this Instructional League on my defense too. I've been going at it strong and it's obviously translating in games. I feel a lot looser and more confident, more relaxed, and I'm making good plays."

It wouldn't be outlandish for a player who missed seven weeks of his debut season in the already shortened season of the rookie leagues to feel he was robbed of some opportunities but the now more mature Mateo doesn't really look at it that way.

"It might have taken away a couple of things I wanted to accomplish this year but it's in the past," he said. "What's in the past, I'm not going to worry about it. If I think about what happened I can't focus on the things I need to work on in the present or in the future.

"The most important thing right now is to focus on my hitting. I'm focused on making contact. I'm looking to make contact every time at the plate and that's where my focus has to be."

He does have his sights set on other areas of his game too, however. Mateo, who put on nearly ten pounds of muscle this past season and now weighs in at a more respectable 175 pounds, plans on adding more strength this offseason in preparation for his 2015 campaign.

"My focus this offseason is on my body and getting stronger. I want to focus on my hitting, making contact, and improving my body.

"The first thing I need to do is work on my body and stay healthy. That's number one. If I'm not healthy I can not play and can not perform so I'm going to focus on that. If I'm healthy I know I'm going to have a good year [next season]. I know I'm going to be right on."

With his rapidly developing mental game allowing his plus physical tools to play better more consistently, Mateo has quickly turned heads this year. In fact, the images of a young right-handed hitting version of Jose Reyes are at the forefront of nearly everyone's mind when watching him play. Mateo, however, isn't stopping there.

"I have been told from a lot of people that I'm reminiscent of him but I don't want just play like him, I want to go higher than him and beyond," he concluded.

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