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Yankees Prospects: Is there Jorge Mateo prospect fatigue?

He may be a top prospect in baseball, but he’s been around for a while already without ever reaching a high level.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in what feels like forever, being a Yankees fan means also knowing your prospects. There was a time when if you knew who was in the starting lineup, then you pretty much understood the team. They were also famous enough that you could even explain to someone on the street who was on the team and they’d recognize the names: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and the like.

Now, that isn’t really the case. I’ve found myself, on multiple occasions, having to explain to someone I’m with at a game that one player was just traded for, or was a minor signing, or that they’re a newly promoted prospect. Prospects and newbies are a Yankees way of life these days.

And as far as prospects go, the system went from rags to riches, and a while ago the best prospect in the organization was none other than Jorge Mateo. Mateo was signed for $225,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, and he has since gone on to become the third best prospect in the organization by, and the 29th best prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus in July. The question is: with easily-seen flaws and better prospects directly ahead of him, are Yankees fans going through some prospect fatigue?

We’ve seen the fatigue firsthand with someone like Gary Sanchez, who went from perennial top prospect who couldn’t make any progress, to rookie sensation and good enough to force Brian McCann out of the organization. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Now that Mateo is entering his third full season as a highly-anticipated Yankees prospect, what can we realistically expect?

As far as trade value goes, Mateo will consistently pop up in discussions. He’s a bit of a high-risk player because of his age, level, and profile, and speed-first players are often better to dangle than, say, the guy hitting 20 home runs per year and progressing levels quickly. He was brought up in the Craig Kimbrel talks, so as of last year, that was about the benchmark for what you could return. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, he could return an average player or starting pitcher, or elite closer.

On his own merits, Mateo is a good-but-not-great prospect with some can’t-miss tools, and some things that make you immediately worry. Here are three different reports on him:

“More than just a slap-and-dash guy, he has wiry strength and displays solid raw power during batting practice that has yet to manifest itself during games... getting on base is a higher priority and he'll need to tighten up his strike zone to do that... reports on Mateo raised some concerns about his throwing arm, but it has gotten stronger and now grades as a plus tool. With his actions, range, hands and arm, he'll stay at shortstop for the long term. He needs to improve his defensive consistency after making 30 errors in 99 games last year.”

Baseball Prospectus:

“Mateo is a plus hitter, which paired with his 80 speed will make Mateo an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers and defenders. What makes Mateo special is the potential to be an everyday player at SS because of his plus arm and outstanding range, which helps makes up for some negatives. All of this heightens his value and makes Mateo a truly special player.”


“Risk: High; speed-reliant profile; no upper-minors experience... Mateo has plus bat speed and some feel for the barrel but is still ultra-aggressive at the plate and will need to tone that down to be more consistent. With his elite run, defensive value, and possibly improving power, Mateo could quickly rise up prospect lists, and do the same through the Yankees’ farm system.”

So, despite the fact that 2080 and BP’s were written in the spring and MLB in the fall, you hear similar things, that Mateo has incredible bat speed and speed on the base paths, but he needs to seriously improve his plate discipline and on-base numbers for any of that to matter.

Let’s look forward to 2017. This year, Mateo likely starts the year in High-A and makes it to Double-A by mid-year. He has only been about league average at High-A, so he would need to match or improve that for us to get an indication that he can indeed hit high-level pitching.

Are we experiencing fatigue? Not yet, I don’t think. He did have some disciplinary concerns this summer, but again—so did Sanchez. This year, though, could very well create the fatigue, or only boost the hype. If his stolen base numbers continue to get worse, and his on-base abilities don’t improve, then the question trickles even more to the surface: is Mateo just a two-way player with good defense and speed? If that’s the case, he’s infield depth. If he can hit, then he could be an All-Star caliber player.

There are a lot of interesting long-term story lines for the Yankees in 2017 that matter well beyond this year. Mateo is one of them, because if the pieces fall into place, then 2018 could see Mateo as a top-ten prospect in all of baseball. If not, then prospects be prospects.