Signed out of the Dominican Republic only three years ago, Mateo is already considered to be a top prospect in the Yankees organization. He hit a combined .379/.438/.816 with 53 stolen bases over two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and another year in rookie ball on his way to being ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in the system. Still only 19, many evaluators see a large amount of potential in the young shortstop, which has led many fans to expect great things from him before too long. While scouts love him and many expect him to be that elusive "shortstop of the future" we have been searching for for so long, there is still plenty of risk and many reasons to adjust lofty expectations before things get too out of hand because, in the end, he still needs to prove he can do it on the field.
Mateo made his American baseball debut last year when he reached the Gulf Coast League for the first time. He hit a decent .276/.354/.397 with 11 stolen bases, but he only managed to get into 15 games all year because of a wrist injury. It's hard to get a good read on only 65 plate appearances, but despite the missed time, good reviews still poured in. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs rated him positively back in October, complimenting his bat speed and advanced approach at the plate, viewing him as an aggressive base stealer, and believing he has the ability to stay at his position as an above-average shortstop. Despite what could have been viewed as a disappointing season, positive scouting reports like this have kept evaluators and Yankees fans alike excited about his future. Who knew an injury-shortened year could be viewed in such a positive light.
Jorge Mateo could very well be the shortstop of the future, but at 19 years old and only 15 games into rookie ball, he needs to meet those positive scouting reports and show it on the field this year if he wants to remain in the top 10. He might have a certain amount of talent, but such high rankings with so little experience is a bold move on the part of many and could easily backfire just based on how often things like this happen when dealing with prospects. He still has plenty of time to prove it in his own way since he could easily find himself on any of the Gulf Coast, Pulaki, or Staten Island teams to at least start the year. He doesn't have to shoot through three levels in one season, but it would be nice to see his advanced abilities show up in the box scores on a consistent basis.
Hopefully 2015 will go well for him in order to explain why many teams are already inquiring on his availability. Since 2014 was a mostly lost year, this season the Yankees will let him get his feet under him with an eye toward 2016 as the year they really let him loose. McDaniel thinks "he could be a 270 - .280 hitter with 10-15 home runs a year, a good OBP and above average defense" so let's see him take the first step in proving that potential. I'm cautiously excited for what lies ahead.