Every week, we break down a different MLB shortstop to examine — good or bad. Maybe it's an MLB top prospect, a “flavor of the month” on the fantasy baseball waiver wire, or someone who could be “sell-high” trade bait. Sometimes, it's a superstar or burgeoning player who is turning in the season we were all hoping for and rising up fantasy baseball rankings. In this edition of the Fantasy Alarm Player Spotlight series, we will turn our attention to Jorge Mateo. Mateo, a draft season afterthought, was quickly added off waivers early in the season once managers realized his potential for stolen bases. But he was just a one-trick pony in the first half. In the second half, he has completely turned his offensive game upside down. Can it continue for the rest of this season where should Mateo go in 2023 drafts? 




Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight: Jorge Mateo 

Available as a shortstop and outfielder in most leagues, Jorge Mateo was a complete afterthought in spring fantasy drafts. On NFBC, his ADP was a lowly 431, which meant he was the 41st shortstop taken off the board. Granted, fantasy managers didn’t have much info at their disposal. Mateo had a 20-game cup of coffee with San Diego in 2020, and then less than 210 plate appearances split between San Diego and Baltimore in 2021. 

San Diego was able to part ways with the defensive-minded, speedy shortstop because they had, at the time, Fernando Tatis, Jr. and C.J. Abrams waiting behind him. Whoops! Mateo did swipe 10 bags in his 89 games in 2021, giving us a hint of his speed coming into 2022. But no one was prepared for how he was about the run wild on the bases.


Mateo Was a First Half Category Winner, But Not Much Else

After Mateo stole six bases in his first 14 games, it was clear he was going to be some kind of asset in fantasy. That turned out to be partially true as he swiped 22 bases in the first half, scored 32 runs, but slashed only .205/.258/.353. That .258 on-base percentage was third-worst in the majors, ahead of only Javier Báez and Jonathan Schoop. He did have seven home runs, but the .353 slugging percentage was 139th out of 157 qualified batters. 

Fantasy managers had a choice to make. Give their team a boost in steals with Mateo, but risk sinking batting average? Mateo had 303 plate appearances in the first half, so it’s not like he was some part-time player. Mateo spent time in many leagues being shuffled on and off waivers, with managers hoping to grab some cheap speed, but being frustrated by the lack of batting average or power contributions.

But then the second half came, and Mateo’s whole offensive game was flipped on its head. 





Mateo Delivering Average and Power in the Second Half

Mateo has been able to tap into another level of average and power in the second half that simply didn’t exist in the first half. He is slashing .306/.352/.541 since the All-Star Break including four home runs and six doubles already. Many will point to the abnormally high .349 BABIP in the second half, but Mateo is always going to have a slightly higher BABIP than the league average because of his next-level speed. The change has come from three simple things. 

First, Mateo has drastically cut down on his strikeouts. In the first half, he struck out more than 30% of the time, but that is now at 19.8% for the second half. The higher contact levels is allowing him to reach base at a greater clip even though his walk rate has remained stable all season. 

Second, his hard-hit rate has shot up with the better contact. Fangraphs lists Mateo at 29.9% hard-hit rate in the second half when it was only 23.9% over the first three months. We know that harder hit balls correlate more closely to base hits and extra-base hits, so more power behind his swings is paying off for Mateo.

Lastly, he is benefiting from some simple better luck in the second half. In the first half, his home run per fly ball rate was 9.5%, or about two percent below the league average. In the second half, it’s jumped up to 15.4%, slightly above the league average. 

The trade-off, of course, is that the increased power has produced far less opportunities for Mateo to steal a base. After stealing 22 bases before the All-Star break, he only has five steals since. But managers may be willing to make that trade if it means more help in average, home runs, and RBI. 


What Version of Mateo Will We See in September and in 2023?

One thing is for sure heading into 2023. Mateo will not be drafted at spot 431 again, as the 41st shortstop off the board. Among players who play primarily shortstop, Mateo is a top-13 rotisserie option in Yahoo leagues, even with a seasonal .229 average. 

Mateo’s power grade when he was a prospect was only a 40, while he consistently displayed 80-grade speed in the minors. His future help to fantasy teams is likely to be much more in the steals and runs categories. But if he can continue to limit his strikeouts, get on base at a .340+ clip, and provide some periodic pop, this is a guy who could move to near the top of the order in 2023 instead of the eighth or ninth he has primarily hit this year.

Having just turned 27 years old, this could be a beginning of a 2-3 year prime peak for the talented Orioles shortstop. Be prepared to pay a much steeper price at draft tables next year. 



Fantasy Alarm is the home of all things Fantasy Sports. Bringing you the best Fantasy FootballFantasy Baseball and Fantasy Basketball content all year long. Be sure to also check out the best fantasy promo codes on offer today!


Related MLB Links: