Happy Wednesday, San Francisco Giants fans.
Today is one of the most exciting days to be a Giants fan in recent memory. It is, presumably, the debut of outfield prospect Luis Matos.
Just as with Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey last month, Matos’ debut is coming at the intersection of excellent play and injury opportunity. It just happens to be that both of those things are extra intense in Matos’ case.
First, the bad: left fielder Mitch Haniger suffered a fractured forearm in last night’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s brutal for Haniger, who has had very bad injury luck in his career, and it’s brutal for the Giants, as Haniger was really finding a rhythm. They were going to have to find a way to get Matos on the roster, but this was not the route they were hoping for.
But my goodness did the “excellent play” portion of that intersection come into play. And just how quickly it happened.
Matos had a highly pedestrian 2022 in High-A Eugene, hitting well below league average while many questioned if he was still a great prospect. The Giants insisted they were happy with his process and that he was a few adjustments away from taking off. They slotted him into AA, and he immediately backed up all their claims.
He was promoted to AAA Sacramento in mid-May, and here’s how he’s hit since: 43-108 with seven home runs, two triples, eight doubles, and seven walks. Just for good measure, he’s stolen six bases in seven attempts, too.
Even in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League, those numbers are absurd, and they’ve only been more absurd lately: in his last six games (including Tuesday’s game, which saw him pulled as soon as Haniger got injured), he’s hit 12-25 with six home runs, one double, two walks, and just two strikeouts.
There’s never a guarantee that a prospect will maintain their hitting success in the Majors, but there are reasons for optimism with Matos. He’s not getting extraordinarily lucky, as his .391 BABIP is higher than average but far from an outlier — and at least partially explained by his hard contact and good speed. And his strikeout rate of 8.1% across two levels? It ranks 10th-best out of the 1,340 Minor League hitters with at least 100 plate appearances this year.
It’s now where I remind you that Matos is in AAA, and turned 21 just a few weeks before Spring Training.
And, just as is the case with Schmitt and Bailey, if his offense does struggle, he has excellent defense at a premier position to fall back on.
The Giants have made it clear that they won’t call up top prospects until they’re ready to give them big roles. And Matos has made it clear that he might already be one of the best players on the team, even though he hasn’t debuted yet. So if I were a betting man, I’d say that we see him as the starting center fielder almost every day, with the Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater platoon moving to a corner outfield spot.
What time do the Giants play today?
Matos and the Giants go for the sweep against the Cardinals today at 10:15 a.m. PT.