September is just around the corner and it should be interesting to see who the Yankees choose to send up to the Bronx and who they will let finish the season in the minors. One player that isn't going to see any time at the major league level in 2015 is shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo. Many fans have wanted the Yankees to call up the 20-year-old infielder with 81stolen bases to serve as a pinch runner off the bench, but it's just not something that is going to happen because there's no real reason for it.
A designated pinch runner is a nice idea to have when you have 40 guys, instead of just 25, but it's not really necessary. Base running doesn't exactly add that much more value to a team, especially when that player is never going to get on base for themselves. In 2015, the Yankees don't really have a team built around stealing bases. They have Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, of course, but the team has limited their movement on the base paths and now the duo has six stolen bases in the second half. If Joe Girardi is keeping them from running, what use would a designated pinch runner have, except to run for Brian McCann or Mark Teixeira late in games? That role can easily be filled by anyone else on the bench who is already on the 40-man roster. Mateo isn't needed, and shouldn't be wanted, for such an insignificant role.
When the idea of calling up Mateo has been mentioned, I have heard people bring up Billy Hamilton as an example of a team calling up a young prospect to simply serve as a pinch runner. The difference here, though, is that when the Reds called up Hamilton in 2013, he had been playing in Triple-A as a 22-year-old (not High-A as a 20-year-old) and he was going to be Rule 5 eligible that coming winter. The Yankees called up Greg Bird this season because he was going to be Rule 5 eligible in the winter and would need to be added to the 40-man roster anyway. If the Yankees called up Mateo, he still wouldn't be eligible for a whole other year. This is also why Aaron Judge isn't being called up, because, as Brian Cashman says:
"Just like last year with (Rob) Refsnyder, we're not going to bring somebody just to bring them. Greg Bird came up because there was a need, and obviously he was performing well. In Judge's case, there's currently not a need."
The same reasoning applies to Mateo, since his bat is not nearly major league-ready, Didi Gregorius is doing a fine job at short, and a designated runner wouldn't be important on a team like this. It also wouldn't help that as soon as Mateo is added to the 40, he uses up option years, so the Yankees aren't going to start a clock on him when they don't have to yet.
If the Yankees really want a pinch runner down the stretch, the likely candidate for such a role will be Rico Noel. In case you missed it, the Yankees signed Noel–whose first name is actually Jablonski–in the beginning of July after the Padres released him. Much like Freddy Guzman of the 2009 team, Noel offers nothing with the bat, but is actually an excellent base stealer. Guzman had stolen nearly 400 bases in seven years before his age-28 season in 2009, while Noel has stolen 280 in six. Both Guzman and Noel have a 90-stolen base season under their belts, however, Noel's totals have markedly dropped year-over-year since, falling to 59 in 2013, 32 in 2014, and only 20 so far in 2015–his age-26 season.
Maybe Noel is on the decline or maybe it doesn't even matter because his speed on the bases could be at least more useful than throwing Brendan Ryan out there like they've been doing for awhile. In the end, though, a designated pinch runner isn't really worth all that much. Billy Hamilton managed to be worth 0.6 WAR in 13 games with 13 stolen bases, but his speed isn't something that can be easily duplicated and that might be the absolute best case scenario for Mateo, if he were to be called up. Guzman, on the other hand, didn't add any value to the team at all by stealing only four bases and getting thrown out once. He made the postseason roster that year and didn't really contribute.
It's hard to justify giving Mateo a chance now, because–first of all–he isn't ready, and even if he was, a role like this gives him limited opportunity to succeed. Give Mateo more time to develop and instead, if the Yankees are that insistent on calling someone up, Rico Noel is available and we don't care how they use him or what they do with him after the season.