Mat Latos made his Spring debut in a Cincinnati uniform on Tuesday, throwing two scoreless frames. He worked almost exclusively with just two pitches, his fastball and slider, during his first game.
If you missed it at the time of the trade, Redleg Nation had some excellent must-read articles on Latos. Steve Mancuso compiled a very good bio on Latos professional career, contract status, and pitching arsenal while Jason Linden analyzed what the Latos trade meant for the 2012 Reds.
Below you can see Latos professional career numbers. It is worth noting how little time he spent at the minor league level. Latos broke into the majors at the age of 21. Of his 44 minor league games, he appeared in only 9 games above Midwest League level. (The Midwest League is the Dayton Dragons league.)
Latos has a history of great control and an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. More than half of his games have been pitched on the road, and his success has been the same away from Petco as it has been in his home ballpark. It is a rather small sample size, but his appearances in “homerun ballparks”, defined as Great American Ballpark, Coors Field, and Citizens Bank Park, has been on par with what he has done throughout his career.
At the beginning of the 2010 season, John Sickels provided some thoughts on what may become of Latos career. Latos had just barely pitched too many innings the season before to qualify as a prospect.
if Latos does stay healthy, I think he has the natural ability to be a number one or number two starter. If he’d come in under the 50-inning limit, I’d rate him as a Grade A- prospect and would have put him at number four on my Top 50 pitcher’s list.
Two seasons later, Latos has lived up to those high opinions. However, Latos was shocked this offseason to find out that he’d be playing for a different organization in 2012.
“I think for about the first month, I sat there and thought about it and was like ‘Holy [cow], I was traded for four guys. I have to come out and prove this and prove that,'” Latos said. “I started looking at it as if I do something that’s great, if I ever throw a no-hitter, I have to forget about it and work the next day. To be honest with you, I try not to think about it as much as possible.”
In January, while traveling to Cincinnati for the kickoff of the club’s caravan, Latos and his wife had the good fortune of flying on the same plane as Reds manager Dusty Baker.
“He doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody,” Baker said. “Just pitch, and hopefully he gets better through the natural progression of experience and time.”
Various projection systems, courtesy of Latos Fangraphs.com player page, project Latos to continue to post ERA’s in the low 3.00’s with the Reds.
If Latos does stay healthy, then paired with Cueto, Cincinnati has the two aces they’ve been looking for.