Mateo Finishing On A Good Note

TAMPA, FL - It's been less than two weeks since highly touted shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo was promoted to high-A Tampa and yet he's already made quite the impression on his coaches and on the Florida State League in general, earning Player of the Week honors.

[Nathan Bond and Dylan Thomas contributed to this article]

Mateo hit .268 with 18 doubles, eight triples, and a baseball-leading 71 stolen bases for the Charleston RiverDogs earlier this season before earning a promotion to high-A Tampa on August 5th.

"I was just thankful to be there," Mateo said through the help of a translator. "I had a good time. I'm thankful for the opportunity there. I'm glad I was able to stay healthy and now to be here to help the team [in Tampa]."

To say the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for the Dominican native would be an understatement. He has jumped on to the national prospect scene in 2015 with his blazing speed and as a result became the target of some teams during this year's trade deadline, including one prevalent rumor that had him potentially heading to San Diego for closer Craig Kimbrel.

"Of course I heard the rumors," he admitted. "I heard people saying things. I was a little sad that I might not have been a Yankee anymore, that they might have traded me, but I just put it in God's hands and thanks to God I'm still here."

Grateful for still being a part of the Yankee organization, Mateo kept his head down and focused on his work, and got his much sought-after promotion to the Florida State League shortly after the big league non-waiver trade deadline had passed.

"I was proud and excited," he said of the promotion. "I was proud that the Yankees thought I was playing well enough to deserve to be promoted and I was excited once I got to Tampa. I was just really glad that I was accomplishing some of my goals.

"The biggest thing was just to be the same guy every time no matter if I got out or had success, to the be that same guy, a good teammate."

The fact is though he's found even more success at his newest minor league level. He has hit a robust .388 through his first twelve games with Tampa and earned Florida State League Player of the Week honors for the week of August 10-16 that saw him hit .435 with three doubles, one triple, four runs scored, four RBIs, and three stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .458 and his slugging percentage was .652 that week.

"There's not a whole lot of differences so far," Mateo noted between the pitching in the South Atlantic League and the Florida State League. "The thing I've noticed is the pitchers are in the strike zone a lot more, their command is better and don't miss as much as they do in the lower levels."

While the numbers are impressive and quite tangible, it's his actual play on the field that has allowed his coaching staff to sit up and take immediate notice.

"He's exciting and fun to watch," Tampa hitting coach Tommy Slater said. "He's fun to watch in the batter's box, he's fun to watch defensively, and he's fun to watch on the base paths. We're just enjoying watching him play right now."

"Electric player," manager Dave Bialas concurred. "He's a plus-plus runner. His ability on the base paths are comparable to some of the best in baseball with the speed that he has. His base stealing instincts are real good.

"He makes things happen on the base paths. You see what happens; the pitchers will shorten up and then they'll throw it down the middle [because they're paying attention to him] and then it's whacked. He's a distraction. His base running skills are really good and they're only going to improve over time."

The rare base running skills were and are a given, however. Everyone knows about them. What has impressed the Tampa coaching staff though is just how good a hitter Mateo seems to already be in the early going.

"Hitting-wise, he's going to be fine," Bialas said. "There's going to be adjustments to be made but this kid is strong. Not only can he run but he's strong and he's got good bat speed. The ball comes off of his bat very well. Basically what he has to do is put the ball in play.

"With young hitters the strike zone discipline will come. That's not a worry. In time -- we're not necessarily worried about him drawing walks -- but his on base percentage is going to be a key for him because when he gets on base things happen. But he has definite hitting skills, he has power, he has bat speed, he has five tools. I don't know how much power he's going to hit for but it won't make too much difference."

And it's not just offensively either. Mateo has made quite the impression on the defensive side of the ball too and it's the entire package that has his manager pretty impressed barely two weeks into his promotion.

"He has tremendous skills," Bialas noted. "His arm strength is good. What I've seen so far is he can throw from the hole with good arm strength and carry. He's got range -- this guy is going to be a good one, a really good Major League ball player. He looks like a big league shortstop to me."

As good as Mateo has been so far in his short time with Tampa, the scary part is that Mateo and his coaches believe he can be a lot better going forward too. For Mateo personally, he just wants to continue his recent high level of play and finish his first full season in strong fashion.

"I can get a lot better," Mateo said. "There's a lot of room for improvement across the board and the goal everyday is to go out there and work on that stuff, and I'll keep progressing in my career.

"Thanks to God I feel good, I feel healthy, and I'm ready to go. I just want to go out there and do the right things for the team, stay healthy, and finish on a good note," he concluded.


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