During the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline, one of the weirder storylines involved former Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. According to Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart, the Snakes inquired about Kimbrel's availability, but talks quickly dissipated when the Padres allegedly asked for Paul Goldschmidt. The Yankees also may or may not have been in on Kimbrel. Brian Cashman also may or may not have offered to send a package revolving around shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo, although there were conflicting reports.
At the time, Mateo had just turned 20 and was tearing up the basepaths in Low-A Charleston. He would finish the season in High-A Tampa with 82 stolen bases across two levels and a .278/.345/.392 slash line for the year. As exciting as Mateo's speed was, he hadn't really flashed any power and had a strikeout rate just under 20%. In an ideal world he would've been making more consistent contact, given his lack of power. If the Yankees really did offer him to the Padres, it would be pretty tough to fault their logic looking at the numbers.
Then again, he was also a 20-year-old who had finished the season in the Florida State League for a reason. Preseason scouting reports from MLB.com and FanGraphs both named Mateo as the Yankees' top prospect. The fact that both sites had him at the top of the list is very significant, since Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs appears to have prioritized upside a bit more, while MLB.com seems to value proximity to the big leagues. Second on Farnsworth's list in Domingo Acevedo, who ended the 2015 season with just one career appearance in Charleston, while MLB.com puts Aaron Judge at second.
In other words, Mateo's consensus number one ranking suggests that he has both the floor and the ceiling to justify the hype. Despite his slap-hitting profile, Farnsworth suggested that he had more power than he was showing in games, saying Mateo had "a swing plane capable of consistently hitting balls in the air with solid contact ability." Looking at this home run from spring training, it's easy to see what he meant:
Mateo has continued to showcase some of his pop at High-A Tampa this year. Yesterday, he hit his eighth triple of the season, to go with his five home runs. Last year, he hit two homers all season. His isolated power is over .200, which suggests that he has a bright future racking up extra base hits as well. By MLB.com's account, his throwing arm is getting stronger, and he still has plenty of time to bring his high number of errors under control.
Now that Mateo has started hitting for power, it is time to put him on the list of untouchable prospects. Whether or not the Yankees actually offered him to the Padres last season is up for speculation, but he should definitely be off limits going forward. During the previous decade, shortstops like Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins showed that good defense, great speed and the occasional power surge are worth between five and seven wins per season.
Unless the Yankees are holding him back until he can cut down on his errors, Mateo could be celebrating his 21st birthday in Double-A Trenton next month. Double-A is often known as the level where raw talent alone is no longer enough to succeed, even for the most exciting prospects. Gary Sanchez got the call to Trenton in 2013 as a 20-year old, and didn't see Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre until last year. No matter how long it takes, it is only a matter of time before Mateo is leaving scorch marks on basepaths in the Bronx.
Data is courtesy of FanGraphs.