2015 Statistics: 116.1 IP, 7.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.95 ERA, 3.72 FIP
2016 Age: 28
Position: Right Handed Starting Pitcher
Hey, remember when Mat Latos was the next big thing?
Latos made his big league debut with the Padres in 2009 but really emerged a year later. In his first full season, he kept a 2.92 ERA, struck out 189 in 184.2 IP and finished 8th in Cy Young voting. Although he never quite topped his 2010 performance, Latos remained an effective starter even after he was dealt to Cincinnati prior to the 2012 season. To indicate how high his value was at the time, check out the package the Reds sent back to San Diego: Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Edinson Volquez. If you're keeping score at home, that's two 2015 All-Stars, a quality starting hurler on a World Series champion, as well as a starting first baseman. That's a hefty haul to relinquish for a player who has never made an All-Star team. Still, it demonstrated that the industry viewed Latos as a workhorse pitcher on the verge of dominance.
Four years later, the big righty is available after a disappointing 2015. In 116.1 innings spread between the Marlins, Dodgers and Angels, Latos pitched to a 4.95 ERA. However, his numbers were surprisingly-not-terrible below the surface. His high ERA was heavily inflated from his 3.72 FIP. Besides, Latos maintained a nice strikeout to walk ratio, whiffing 100 and walking only 32. One of the main factors in Latos' struggles was a strand rate that, at 63%, was far worse than his career norm. The other was a .307 BABIP, the only time in his career he has been over 3. After his average fastball velocity tumbled to 90 mph in 2014 (down from 94 mph in 2010), Latos even regained some life on his heater, adding a mile-and-a-half per hour. The stats indicate Latos should still be able to contribute to a big league rotation. Still, 91 mph isn't exactly thrilling.
In 2015, the onetime Broward College Seahawk tinkered with his arsenal, hedging his shrinking velocity by diversifying his toolkit. Latos throws four types of fastball, although he relies primarily on the four-seamer and the cutter, both of which he tosses in the low-90s. In addition, he features a two-seamer as well as a low-80s splitter, which he debuted last season. For offspeed, Latos throws a mid-70s slider and a low-80s curveball, although he's steadily eschewed breaking pitches in favor of cutters and splits. Latos also has a low-80s changeup, which he uses sparingly. As he develops his split-finger, the change might soon disappear from his repertoire. Overall, his type of stuff is more suited to the National League. Latos is somewhat capable of generating ground balls (career 43%), but there's no doubt he would fare better if he threw his home games somewhere with a large outfield. Yankee Stadium sure as hell ain't Petco Park.
Latos' market has been fairly dormant so far. He's been linked to Pittsburgh who has an open rotation spot after dealing away Charie Morton. Plus, Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is renowned for raising reclamation projects. Otherwise, all is quiet on the Latos front.
Latos would be an awkward fit for the Yankees. Roster-wise, it's hard to see the club taking a chance on him without first dealing away another starter. If the Yankees were to trade Ivan Nova, Latos could be a capable replacement. However, Latos probably couldn't crack the Yankees' current rotation, particularly as a righty. It's not impossible that Latos ends up in the Bronx, but as the roster stands today, it's highly improbable.