Yankees Prospect Profile Number One: Jorge Mateo
As we continue along with the Yanks Go Yard Prospect Profile series, we move down the MLB pipeline to the number one ranked prospect for the New York Yankees, Jorge Mateo.
Scouting grades (Courtesy of MLB Pipeline): Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 80 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55.
Once an unheralded 16-year-old shortstop out of the Dominican Republic who signed for a modest $225,000 bonus in 2012, Jorge Mateo has exceeded all expectations and established himself as the top prospect in the New York Yankees system.
Mateo’s most exceptional tool is his elite speed. He is one of the few true 80-grade runners in the game, and that alone should make him a viable big league starter. It is the rest of the package that makes him a truly special player, however.
Mateo has solid contact ability, tantalizing power potential (some scouts see him as a 10-15 homer type once he fully develops), and a polished approach at the plate for his age. As of Friday, he was hitting .265/.324/.401 (114 wRC+) in 318 PAs for the High-A Tampa Yankees this season.
He also has all of the tools to be an above-average shortstop. One Yankees talent evaluator had this to say to Chad Jennings of The Journal News about Jorge Mateo in spring training:
"He’s got the foot speed. He’s got the quick reaction. Arm strength. The hands I think are something that I think need to be more consistent, but the athleticism that he has is not really seen very often. The thought is that there’s room improvement with time, and that he’s going to be able to stick there just because that batch of tools that he has is pretty rare."
After two seasons with the Yankees Dominican Summer League affiliate in which he hit a combined .281/.379/.438 with 53 steals in 78 games, Jorge Mateo made his stateside debut in 2014 as a 19-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. Although he started strong, batting .276/.354/.397 in his first 65 PAs, he missed the majority of the season with a broken finger.
The injury only delayed Jorge Mateo’s breakout one season. In 2015, he proceeded to lead all minor league players with 82 stolen bases and put up a slash line of .278/.345/.392 in 500 PAs split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa.
The performance got him named the 30th best overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com following the season. He was also ranked 26th on Baseball America’s list and 65th by Baseball Prospectus.
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This season, Mateo was named as one of the Yankees representatives (along with Gary Sanchez) in the 2016 Futures Game. He also notably began to see some time at second base, although the team insists there is no position switch imminent.
The Yankees current starting shortstop Didi Gregorius is controlled through 2019, and the organization boasts impressive shortstop depth in the minors.
Including Mateo, six of the team’s top 30 prospects this year were play the position, so he’ll eventually have to compete with some combination of Wilkerman Garcia, Tyler Wade, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, and Thairo Estrada for a job down the line.
Of course, having “too many” dynamic shortstop prospects is a nice problem to have. Some of these guys will switch positions and others will serve as trade bait, but the Yankees are pretty far from having to make any decisions on that front.
While Jorge Mateo has been slumping lately (.194/.235/.226 in June), his overall performance has been on par this season and he appears primed to make the jump to Double-A Trenton this season. If he splits the next year between the Thunder and Triple-A Scranton, that would put him on track to make his big league debut in 2018.
Next: Yankees Prospect Profile Number Two: Aaron Judge
He is certainly still a ways off, but his combination of top-shelf speed, offensive potential, and defensive ability at a key position make him as close to a can’t miss prospect as a 21-year-old can be.