Jorge Mateo was an integral part of a Baltimore Orioles team that won 29 more games than they did in 2021. The shortstop dazzled around the basepaths and defensively with his glove, all while emerging as more of a power threat at the plate. How will the enigmatic shortstop fare against Birds Watcher’s stringent grading system?
Just in case you’ve missed previous installments (featuring Adley Rutschman and Kyle Bradish), the grading system for hitters is as follows: Offense, Defense, and an “elective” category of my choosing. Now, let’s get into it!
While Jorge Mateo increased his power output by hitting a career-high 13 home runs in addition to posting career best marks in slugging percentage and isolated power, he was largely a below average hitter in 2022.
Baltimore Orioles: grading Jorge Mateo’s 2022 performance
Unfortunately, Mateo’s Baseball Savant page features more blue than an Eiffel 65 music video. He ranked among the bottom fifth of qualified MLB hitters in average exit velocity, walk rate, and strikeout rate. His wOBA was 39 points below the MLB average. The average batter had a .312 on-base percentage in 2022. Jorge Mateo? .267.
Despite the low OBP, Mateo did appear near the top of the leaderboard in a few offensive categories. His 35 stolen bases led the American League, beating out teammate Cedric Mullins by one. His seven triples were tied for second in the majors, trailing only Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario. He may not have gotten on base as often as he would have liked but when he did, Jorge Mateo made magic happen.
Watching Jorge Mateo play shortstop is an absolute joy, his defense the quality of which Orioles fans haven’t seen since J.J. Hardy was manning the position in the early to mid 2010’s. Mateo arguably should have received a Gold Glove for his defensive play but instead was snubbed completely, not even named a finalist for the award.
Jorge Mateo made plays that mortal shortstops cannot, all while making it looking routine in the process. An elite defender in every sense, he was in the 99th percentile among all qualified fielders in Outs Above Average – only 17 players (five shortstops) were above him.
UZR/150 measures fielding runs above average based upon factors such as range and errors then scaled to a per-150 game basis to put players who’ve appeared in various numbers of games on equal footing. If a player has a 10 UZR/150, that means they were 10 runs better than the average player at their position per 150 games. Jorge Mateo’s 14.5 UZR/150 ranked fourth among all shortstops and was higher than that of the shortstop who won the AL Gold Glove, Houston’s Jeremy Peña.
The so-called weakness of Mateo’s defensive game is his arm strength (in the 65th percentile of qualified MLB defenders), but it’s like comparing a pot roast to A5 wagyu: both are incredibly delicious, but one is in a completely different stratosphere.
This technically falls under offense but Jorge Mateo is so ridiculously rapid that he deserves a separate grade for it.
Mateo covers more ground on the baseball field as I do in three months. His average sprint speed is in the 99th percentile of major leaguers – only six players ran faster.
Mateo’s split times are fascinating. Considering his speed, one would imagine that he would be explosive from the time he dropped his bat, but this is far from the case. On average, it took him 0.56 seconds to get from zero to five feet, placing him 447th(!!!!) out of all qualified players. He must be pushing too hard on corner entry, maybe he should come in and get some special tires.
Once Mateo got up to speed though, it was off to the races. His average 0-90 foot split time was 3.82 seconds, placing him 20th on the MLB leaderboard.
Final GPA: 3.22
Even with a below average bat, Jorge Mateo accumulated 2.8 fWAR for the Baltimore Orioles last season, the third highest total on the team that trailed only Adley Rutschman and Cedric Mullins.
The 27 year old may need to improve offensively to secure his position as the O’s starting shortstop, especially with the abundance of middle infield prospects in the high levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor league system. A super utility role could be in his future but with his proficient glove and blazing speed, Mateo could become one of the most valuable bench players in baseball for a team looking to push towards the playoffs.