Jorge Mateo has the tools to make a positive impact on the Baltimore Orioles
On Thursday afternoon, Dan Connolly of The Athletic reported on Twitter that the Baltimore Orioles had claimed Jorge Mateo off waivers of the San Diego Padres after he was designated for assignment by San Diego on Tuesday. In correspondence with the claim, Baltimore designated Pat Valaika for assignment. Should he clear waivers, Valaika will likely pick back up with the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate.
The move to acquire Mateo and DFA Valaika seems like a long-term play rather than something that will translate into wins right away, which is exactly the kind of move the Orioles should be looking to make as they continue to rebuild. Having debuted in the shortened 2020 season, Mateo still has his rookie eligibility intact, whereas Valaika turns 29 next month and has already begun arbitration.
According to FanGraphs, Mateo ranked within the top 30 prospects in a loaded Padres farm system when he made his debut a year ago. In his time at the Major League level, Mateo has slashed an unsavory .195/.235/.322, although his numbers this season have risen from where they were in his debut season. One significant improvement in Mateo’s approach at the plate has been his cut in strikeout rate, dropping the 39.1% K rate he posted in 2020 down to 29.0% this year, just above league average.
While Mateo’s hit tool could still use some tinkering in order to catch up with Major League caliber pitching, an elite skill that Mateo possesses is speed. According to Baseball Savant, Mateo ranks in the 100th percentile of sprint speed across all of Major League Baseball, trailing just Trea Turner and Tim Locastro for the title of MLB’s quickest runner. In his big league tenure, Mateo is a perfect six-for-six on stolen base attempts.
Mateo’s agility has allowed him to log innings at several different positions during his big league career, including second base, shortstop, third base, and all three outfield spots. As the Orioles look to put the right pieces together to build a contender, Mateo’s defensive versatility will certainly come in handy.
With upper-echelon speed, an improving plate approach, and the ability to play just about anywhere, Mateo may become an important piece to the next great Orioles team in the coming years.