Name: Jorge Mateo
DOB: June 23, 1995
Batting and Power. The thing that stands out offensively with Mateo besides his blazing running speed is his equally quick bat speed. He has excellent quick-twitch wrists that explode through the zone and some of the best overall torque in a swing found at the minor league level. There's a double-edged sword with that, however. While that rare bat speed gives him the confidence to sit back on secondary pitches and also gives him good power for a player of his size it does often times give him a bit too much confidence as well, thinking he can get to any pitch in any part of the zone and that can lead to extended periods of over-aggressiveness. That goes against what can be a very patient approach at times too so in essence sometimes he's battling himself in the batter's box more so than the opposing pitcher, not knowing when to be aggressive and when to be patient. Most scouts believe he will find that correct balance in due time as he continues to mature and should that balance be found he could very well wind up being a high-average hitter someday, especially given his solid pitch recognition and plate discipline. There is work to be done to get to that point though. Power-wise there is long-term average power potential, perhaps even a shade above average should he get a little more loft and/or backspin into his swing, but either way he should be more of a gap to gap doubles and triples hitter with potentially 20-home run power if things break right.
Base Running and Speed. The fact that Mateo only attempted 51 stolen bases last year should have been a major red flag that mentally he just wasn't where he needed to be to be the player he not only could be but already is, at least running-wise. A true 80-runner on the traditional 20-80 scout's scale, it was just the year prior that he swiped a professional baseball-leading 82 bases. And that's who he is, a plus-plus runner with an aggressive style of taking every extra base possible, and that's who he projects to be long-term too. He's an elite station to station runner who could approach 100 stolen bases in a season someday, he's that special with the legs.
Defense. Mateo has always had the physical tools to be an elite defensive player at shortstop -- plus range, plus-plus athleticism, plus arm strength, and soft hands -- and he still does. There's still some growing up to do on the mental side, however, most notably allowing the game to come to him more in the field and not being so aggressive all of the time. That last part comes with experience and time. He also shows plus defensive ability at second base and given his unique running speed he gives the Yankees a viable long-term option in centerfield too, a position he reportedly will see a lot more of during the 2017 season. He gives the Yankees a lot of long-term position flexibility up the middle and the ceiling of an elite defender at any of those three positions. Whether or not he fulfills his Gold Glove potential at any of the three will depend on the amount of mental maturity and professional experience he gains.
Projection. We've said for years that Mateo was a unique, physically gifted five-tool player. A virtual tool shed, he has plus-plus speed, plus-plus athleticism, plus defensive potential at multiple positions, above average hitting ability, and average or better power potential. And despite his two-week team suspension a year ago for reportedly sulking about a lack of minor league promotion, he is still very much a high makeup, high character, very intelligent, hard-working young man. The criticism nationally on his makeup is both unsubstantiated and unwarranted quite frankly. He's just a kid who wants to win, who wants to be the best, and wants to do it immediately. That lack of patience in his own development and/or big league track is hardly a character flaw. In fact, it is his tremendous work ethic that gives him one of the best shots of reaching his ceiling as a right-handed hitting, younger version of Jose Reyes. Like Reyes he can be truly electric on both sides of the ball and one who has a bit more power than a traditional leadoff batter, and also like Reyes it could take some time to refine his game and find that correct patient-aggressiveness balance to be the optimal hitter he can be.
ETA. 2018. What last year's two-week suspension and life lesson mostly did was pump the brakes on what had begun to evolve as a quick big league ascension. The acquisition of Gleyber Torres, another high-end shortstop prospect, also will push all shortstop prospects, including Mateo, to other positions and that could also slow down the eventual big league arrival time too. Mateo is going to see ample centerfield time in 2017 and as a result will most likely not get to the Triple-A level this year. He should get a lot of Double-A playing time this year though and could theoretically be big league ready at some point late next season. He has the talent to be a game-changer quicker than pundits realize.