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Don’t forget about Yankees prospect Jorge Mateo

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After so many Baby Bombers being promoted of late, you can’t forget the one that might be next.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There was a time, and I’m sure you remember, when there were no Baby Bombers. There was no Aaron Judge, or Luis Severino, or Greg Bird. Well, there was still Gary Sanchez, but in this bleak time for the Yankees farm system, say, five years ago, the only other top prospect in the organization was Jorge Mateo.

I wrote about Mateo a bit in January, so I won’t rehash too many of those details: he was an international amateur signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, and he has been a Yankees top prospect since then for his incredible speed and ability to play shortstop.

You can see in that article a few different reports, and the general consensus hasn’t changed: the speed is undeniable, and the fact that he can now play in the infield and outfield makes him incredibly valuable, and the Yankees may indeed use him as a utility player.

The knock of course is that the bat has never really been up to snuff, and that significantly cuts into the value of his 80-grade speed when he doesn’t get on base. For an example, consider two minor league campaigns: in 2015, with a .345 OBP, he stole 82 bases, and in 2016, with an OBP of just .306, he stole just 36 bases. That could have been something else base running related, but suffice it to say that getting on base more is crucial to him being an everyday major leaguer.

This year has been a good story so far, and it directly piggy-backs on my idea of prospect fatigue. Let’s just say that it’s gone for now. This season Mateo has played in 78 games, and he has hit .267/.322/.447 with 30 stolen bases. He was deemed worthy enough to advance to Double-A Trenton, and in his first nine games, he has 17 hits.

Aside from the performance, because that can be scouting-the-stat-lines level of dangerous, it’s interesting to see what people are saying about Mateo and his promotion. In an interview with Matt Kardos he seemed to say all the right things and avoid the silly “maturity” arguments that have surfaced, whatever their merit is. He got glowing reports from his manager at Trenton, Bobby Mitchell, who said, "I don't think anybody in the league runs as fast as Jorge... We were going over the Baseball America things, and nobody runs as fast as him.” He also received some nice press from our friends at Minor League Ball, and they said the following:

“Watching Mateo at the plate both Saturday and Sunday, you can tell that the strikeout rate comes from an aggressive approach. Mateo wants to hit, and when he is grooving, he attacks early in the count. This is good when he is on a hot streak, but obviously raises a bit of concern when he is not. Someone with his speed profile wants to get on base often... [but] Mateo seems like he is in a better place. One can question his maturity for his actions last year, but sometimes a change of place is the right thing. He feels a lot of positive energy at Arm and Hammer according to Kardos, and he is clearly thriving off of it. Defensively, Mateo can also improve, but he is so athletic with a rifle of an arm that he can stick at short if he cleans it up a bit. A future at second or the outfield isn’t out of the question, but as John hinted, perhaps versatility across several positions could be his ticket to New York.”

See, that’s the key right there. We know the Yankees have a habit of carrying too many relievers and running with a short bench, and someone like Mateo can be the answer. With his flexibility, he provides an everyday profile in the outfield or at second base, effectively giving the Yankees a starting player and a bench spot, giving them room to get another bench player or hold an extra reliever. Right now they’d probably take the latter.

Mateo is still far away from the big leagues, of course. He just hit Double-A and he probably plays another full season there to assess his growth. He could be at Triple-A by the spring of next year, and at that point, the clock starts ticking. There are a lot of Baby Bombers out there, and it’s hard to keep track. You can’t forget one of the originals, though, because he could be making his way into a Yankees lineup sooner than we think.