FotF: Chukars Check-In (Daniel Mateo)

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Welcome to the end of another week and another edition of Fish on the Farm! I’ve spent the last two weekly columns focused on the Idaho Falls Chukars and I’m going to stick to that script once again.

On July 16th I wrote extensively about Henry Moreno and Darian Sandford who were notable as they were the only two players on the Chukars roster that made the Royals organizational depth chart in Baseball America’s 2011 Prospect Handbook. Last week on the 23rd, I covered the 14 players who were new to the Royals organization and assigned to Idaho Falls. These players included 5 NDFA’s signed this summer, 8 2011 draft picks and Runey Davis who played in the Chicago Cubs system the last 2 years.

There’s so much more I’d like to write about when it comes to the current Chukars roster – but I don’t want to neglect the other affiliates forever – so this week will be the last in Idaho Falls for a while. Before we move on however, there are 3 position players I’ve yet to cover that are putting up some numbers worth mentioning.

2B/3B Daniel Mateo (19-years old) – Signed out of the Dominican Republic, February 25th, 2008

Mateo happens to be the primary player that caught my attention several weeks ago. His bat has cooled off considerably (6-32 in his last 9 games) but he is still hitting 0.319/.359/.422 in 116 AB this season. This is notable as it is by far his best performance as a professional in his young career. He hit 0.254/.339/.390 in the DSL in 2009 (61 G) and 0.218/.256/.350 in the Arizona League (52 G) last season. The dip from 2009 to 2010 is fairly typical for international free agents like Mateo. Not only do they have to adjust to a new league and level of play, they also have to acclimate themselves to playing baseball in the states for the first time. Culture shock is the term that best fits, but I don’t think it even begins to describe the significance of this transition.

His BA, OBP and SLG are all currently career bests and all three stats show a marked improvement over his 2010 season. While his SO-to-BB rate of 23-to-9 isn’t quite up to par with the 37-to-23 mark he had in the DSL, it is better than the 48-to-10 he put up last season. Mateo’s extra-base numbers are about in line with what they’ve been so the improvement in his SLG is a by-product of his increased BA. As a switch hitter he doesn’t have a pronounced split against LH or RH pitching which will serve him well moving forward.

Defensively it looks like he’s showing similar improvement. On his MiLB.com player page he is still listed as a SS but he started to move around the infield last year after playing exclusively at short in the Dominican Summer League in 2009. In 2010 he still played 17 games at SS but spent 28 at 3B and another 6 at 2B. This season he’s played 17 games at 2B, 8 at 3B and 6 as the team’s DH. The stats we have available are rudimentary, but he has improved his fielding % and RF/G (Range Factor per Game) at both 2B and 3B.

I have been unable to track down any scouting reports on Mateo and that leaves us with only his stats to evaluate. Since we’re talking about a 19-year old in rookie ball it is hard to put much stock in the actual numbers but we can put stock in the trends within the numbers. Those trends show that he is making strides and developing as a player. He’s adjusting, improving and hasn’t stalled out as so many players do in the low minors. He’s clearly bounced back from his “transition” year in 2010 so he’s already shown an ability to handle some adversity. At 6’1″ and 178 lbs he has a frame that should allow him to play almost anywhere on the diamond, unless he hits a growth spurt or packs on a bunch of weight in the coming seasons. The Royals have already moved him off of SS so it would seem 2B, given his current lack of power, would be the best fit if he remains in the infield.

He only has 20 SB in his brief career but that may be an indicator of a lack of base-running instincts as opposed to a lack of speed. Coupled with a lack of visible power it’s hard to see if he has any standout tool at this point in his career and it’s hard to assess what his future might be, but his performance so far this season coupled with his age makes him someone worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Honorable Mentions:

C Edul Escobar (20) – Signed out of Panama, July 2nd 2007

0.340/.354/.532 in 94 AB (26 G) – 13 SO to go with just 1 BB doesn’t scream future star but it’s hard to ignore a catcher with an 0.886 OPS regardless of age or level.

2B Michael Liberto (23) – Drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Missouri

0.357/.432/.457 in 70 AB (20 G) – After starting out, and struggling, with Kane County (A) he was assigned to Idaho Falls on May 22nd. It would appear that he’s gotten his swing back on track as he leads the team in BA, is 2nd in OBP and 5th in SLG.

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Tags: Daniel Mateo Edul Escobar Idaho Falls Chukars Kansas City Royals Michael Liberto

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