Scout on Mateo: “He’s still young and he’s got a lot of tools”

Middle infielders Richie Martin and Jorge Mateo have experience playing the outfield. Mateo has made more starts and appearances in center than in any other position in the majors.

Will the Orioles play them in the outfield this year?

While it’s possible late in the summer or under special circumstances - like Mateo serving as a defensive replacement - manager Brandon Hyde wants to take an extended look at them in the infield. There are no immediate plans to switch their roles.

Martin’s fractured wrist earlier this year after he crashed into the fence while playing center field for Triple-A Norfolk won’t discourage the Orioles from trying again. But they aren’t in any rush.

More important that they check his readiness to perhaps be the starting shortstop or second baseman next season, or the primary utility infielder, after broken bones in his left and right wrists wiped out his entire 2020 season and a large chuck of 2021.

Jorge Mateo tag orange sidebar.jpgMateo has been healthy but unable to get regular at-bats, with the Padres loaded and unwilling as contenders to do much experimenting.

“For the Orioles, he’s a good fit for them,” said a scout who’s worked in both leagues and tracked Mateo. “They can afford to play him, especially second and short because they don’t really have a lot there. They have a center fielder. He could even be a super-utility player.

“It’s a good guy to acquire. With San Diego, he wasn’t going to get a chance.”

Mateo’s plus-plus speed and his athleticism are separators on this team. There are some holes in his game, of course, or he wouldn’t have landed on waivers or hit .195/.235/.310 with the Padres. But there’s plenty to work with and he’s in the right environment.

“A tool shed. Toolsy, toolsy, toolsy,” the scout said.

“He’s a very flamboyant player but can play out of control a little bit. But he flashes a lot of stuff at you. He’s just been erratic, particularly as a young player coming up. He’s a great, great kid and he works his butt off. A very hard worker. The downside so far is he hasn’t shown really good instincts for the game. His reads and routes in the outfield weren’t the best. He was OK at short. He ran at times out of innings just by being overly aggressive on the bases. Still learning to hit the breaking ball. Can chase and swing through a lot of pitches. He has some power. He’ll run into some pitches.

“He’s still young and he’s got a lot of tools. He can steal bases, he’ll score from first easily on a double. The best thing he did was run and he got better not running out of situations. He’s got some upside. And like I said, he works hard and he’s a good kid.”

Anyone who watches Mateo ultimately goes back to his speed. It’s unavoidable. The guy was a blur on his standup triple with the Orioles. He settled for a double Tuesday night because the alternative was climbing Maikel Franco’s back at third base.

“I’ve seen him hit some monster home runs, but he might be the fastest runner in the game,” the scout said. “He just hasn’t performed up to, I guess the expression is he’s performed below his tools. But he’s such a good kid, such a hard worker. Still got some upside, he’s getting better. He can play shortstop or second, he’s got the ability to do that. He has some range.”

Not to mention a resume that includes top 100 prospect status for three years in a row. The Orioles liked Pat Valaika but reached for the higher ceiling. Made total business sense. And Valaika remains in the organization after clearing waivers.

The scout is just as impressed with Mateo’s makeup as his wheels and an arm he grades at 60-65 on the 20-80 scale. The strength and accuracy were evident in a game earlier this week when Mateo turned two double plays.

“He’s no problem at all, he’s a good kid on the team, he’s a fun kid,” the scout said. “I really like him personally a lot. Still (26 years old), got a lot of talent and maybe he’s a late bloomer. He’s there early and works as hard as anybody. Stays in good shape.

“He can fly. You can argue who’s faster, but he’s really fast and he’ll hustle. He’s much better than the kids they’re picking up.”

* Cedric Mullins went 3-for-5 yesterday in a 6-4 loss to the Tigers and his 19-game hitting streak is the longest for the Orioles since Adam Jones hit in 20 straight in May 2012. Mullins was the first Oriole to steal home since Jonathan Villar on Aug. 30, 2019.

* DJ Stewart may be headed toward another home run binge. He’s hit three in the past two games after going 23 without one.

* Marcos Diplán became the third pitcher in Orioles history to not allow a hit in his first three career games, joining Joe Borowski (1995) and Jerry Walker (1957).

* The Orioles have homered in 12 straight home games, their longest single-season streak since 16 in a row in 2015.

* Adley Rutschman played first base last night at Triple-A Norfolk and had three hits, including a double, an RBI and a run scored. Rylan Bannon’s third home run in two nights tied the game in the ninth. Mike Baumann allowed only one run and one hit in four innings, but he also walked six batters.

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