Whatever your feelings on where this San Francisco Giants season might end, you almost certainly are a part of a large cohort of fans who see the debuts of so many young players as an unambiguously good thing. The only downside of this joy has been the uncertainty of who might stick around next year. Luis Matos has certainly made the case that he’s ready.
In 215 plate appearances so far, he’s hitting .270/.329/.378 (.705) with 2 home runs, 13 doubles, and a triple, three stolen bases with zero caught stealing and a 29-15 K-BB. He has been unimpressive in the larger sense while an intriguing figure just when it comes to being on the Giants’ roster. But it’s his recent stretch that has gotten me even more excited.
Thanks to the miracle of micro splits and date range sorting, we know that the 7th-best right-handed hitting outfielder in the National League since the All-Star break has been Luis Matos with a 104 wRC+ (.282/.331/.403 in 134 PA). Back it out to lefties and switch-hitters and he falls to a less impressive #47, but that’s just seven spots behind Joc Pederson, who’s not even really an outfielder, and he’s the only other Giant in the top 50. Matos is a on a list of quality players no matter who you slice it or arbitrary endpoint it.
Don’t you worry: I’m going to keep arbitrary endpointing it.
Since August 1st (74 PA), .290/.329/.435 with 7 doubles and a home run. That’s a 110 wRC+, 12th-best among right-handed hitting outfielders in the National League. Laugh at the absurdity of the microsplitting but do so while looking at these three triple slashes I’ve presented and, uh, well, notice a pattern: the average and slugging goes up while the on base stays consistent.
Then there’s this: the Giants are 36-27 when he plays. They optioned him twice in August. The first time, on August 14th, was when the Giants were 63-55 but they wanted to get into bed with Wade Meckler and Johan Camargo. They went 1-4 in his absence. He returned on August 20th when Brandon Crawford hit the IL and went 2-for-5 against the Braves. When they sent him down on August 30th, they were 69-63. They went 1-6. They lost the finale in Chicago where he got called up again as an injury replacement but that was because they were tired, cranky losers who wanted to get out of town. The rookie still gifted the losers a pair of hits, competing after they’d mostly given up.
I don’t know that Luis Matos brings any particular magic to an efficient, coached within an inch of its life clubhouse, but as a cog in a very complex machine, it’s starting to look like he’s a really important part of whatever it is the Giants think they’re doing. Since the August 20th callup, he’s hitting .346/.370/.615 (10 games; 27 PA) with a home run and four doubles, and you saw what he did against the Rockies. In his last four games: 8-for-16 with a pair of doubles. And just because micro splits are fun, that “since August 20th” line is third-best for right-handed outfielders by wRC+: Mookie Betts (225), Seiya Suzuki (203), Luis Matos (189).
Hopefully, Matos really is starting to show that his .300 bat will play in the majors and hopefully the Giants have recognized that he’s a corner outfielder (-4 OAA in CF, 0 in LF and RF) whose bat might be invaluable. A 21-year old with a 7% walk rate against a 13.5% strikeout rate (Wilmer Floresean) isn’t quite prodigy-level, but with the emergent doubles power, it’s really potent — in any team’s lineup. There’s just enough time left in the season to see if that will be enough to propel them into the Wild Card round, but even if it’s not, figure he’s going to be part of the plan for 2024.