We can always take Winter Ball numbers with a grain of salt. But there is a certain point where they start to mean something. Last year, Alex Torres had a great final start of 2013 then dominated in the Venezuelan Winter League. Coincidence or not, he had a huge 2013 at Triple-A Durham before taking his success to the big league bullpen. Are we starting to reach that same point with Victor Mateo?
Mexican Pacific League: Tomateros de Culiacán 5, Yaquis de Obregón 1
Roman Ali Solis had a strong game to help the Tomateros to victory, going 1 for 2 with a double, a walk, and 2 runs scored. Solis has a strong .262/.326/.445 line with 9 doubles, 7 homers, and 23 RBI in 53 games for Culiacán. Solis has other issues, but the Rays actually have a catcher with power! Even more impressive, though, was Bobby Cramer in the Yaquis loss. He went 3 perfect innings, striking out 2, and he has now tossed 4 straight shutout appearances across 8 innings pitched.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Cangrejeros de Santurce 3, Criollos de Caguas 0
Victor Mateo had his latest excellent outing to lead Santurce to the shutout, going 5.1 innings allowing no runs on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. On the season, he is now 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA, striking out 46 while walking just 11 in 44.1 innings pitched. This comes after he finished 2013 with an excellent second half for the Montgomery Biscuits. But before we expect Mateo to turn into a right-handed incarnation of Alex Torres, let’s set some things straight. Mateo was never as highly regarded as Torres, never cracking the Rays’ top prospects list even once, so there is only so good he can get. He also is 24 and has not yet cracked Triple-A. Finally, while his strikeout to walk ratio is excellent for the Cangerjeros, he has allowed 5 home runs (1.0 HR/9), and his groundout to airout ratio is just 0.61 to 1. Mateo is pitching well, but much of his success has come by pitching up in the zone, something that is a riskier bet at Triple-A and the major leagues. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that Mateo’s changeup is becoming an effective secondary pitch, and that may be enough for Mateo to make the big leagues in the next few years. Not every breakthrough has to be as dramatic as Torres’, and Mateo simply making the big leagues would leave the Rays impressed after where he was in the first half of last season..