Jorge Mateo, the Yankees top prospect according to almost every ranking, showed a glimpse of what he’ll contribute some day with a Grapefruit League home run vs. the Boston Red Sox in Tampa Saturday.
The 20-year-old, he will turn 21 June 23, will start 2016 at Class-A Advanced Tampa, likely advance to Double-A Trenton by June and start 2017 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. We see this shortstop, who rates 80 on the Scouting Scale in speed, reaching the majors in September 2017.
Many have asked, with Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro both under Yankees control through the 2019 season, and entrenched in the middle of the Yankees infield, where will Mateo, who is a definite game-changer, play when he gets to the majors full-time, likely in 2018?
Mateo is the real thing. He rates above-average in batting, speed, defense and arm strength. He still has work to do, but is not all that far away from putting it all together. As any prospect, what he does in Double-A will determine exactly where he is at this point. Several scouts agree no Yankees infield prospect has generated this much buzz since Alfonso Soriano over 15 years ago.
“Mateo is the real deal,” said a scout from a National League East club. “He is a player who will have a definite effect on the game when he gets to the majors.”
But will he cause a logjam in the Yankees infield? Likely not. We can envision a scenario in which Mateo will be something a super-utility guy in 2018, becoming an everyday starter in 2019 at second base.
Chase Headley‘s contract expires after the 2018 season. It is doubtful the Yankees will re-sign hm at that time. Castro has stated he will take a shot at third base if asked, and his arm can certainly handle it, so, in 2019, the Yankees can replace Headley’s spot with him.
Gregorius stays at shortstop, and Mateo moves in at second base, or vice-versa if that is what is decided. The Yankees, depending on performance, will likely re-sign Castro and Gregorius before they become free-agents, as Castro will be 29 and Gregarious just turned 30 when their contracts come up.
If not, Mateo, who will then be 25, can slide back over to shortstop and someone among Kyle Holder, Tyler Wade, Abiatal Avelino, Wilkerman Garcia, who has as much talent as Mateo, or Thairo Estrada can slide into second base. We’ll also see what happens with Rob Refsnyder over the next few years.
The Yankees did an excellent job re-setting their middle infield with Castro and Gregarious with trades over the past two years., Mateo and Garcia aside, they have a lot of better-than average infielders in the system. Both have the potential to be game-breakers.
Neither Wade nor Holder have hit so far, Wade will attempt to improve at Trenton and Holder at Tampa, but do not be surprised if Garcia zooms past them within the next few years. Players like Avelino and Estrada really need to take a step up this year to stay in the picture with the Yankees.
The Yankees will find a spot for Mateo. The opening will be there.