Top prospect Jorge Mateo will be seeing playing time at a different position this season.
According to Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media, Gary Denbo, the Yankees vice president of player development, said Mateo is scheduled to play a couple of games a week in center field to begin the season. Denbo told reporters that having Mateo play a few games a week in center field could ultimately help him get to the Bronx quicker.
Back in December, Mateo told Bronx Pinstripes that he was willing to do anything to help the team, even if it meant playing a position other than shortstop.
The 21-year-old got his first taste of center field during the instructional league in the fall, and it appears that the Yankees organization wants to explore this option further. As a player who possesses a lot of speed, center field could become a solidified position for a player with Mateo’s talent.
Mateo spent the beginning of spring training with the big league club, and hit .136 with a home run in limited action. He will start the season at high-A Tampa, and is also scheduled to see playing time at second base and shortstop.
The Yankees organization hopes Mateo can get back on track this season. In the first half of the 2016 season, Mateo was solid, hitting .266 with 26 stolen bases.
However, before the All Star Break, he was suspended for violating an unspecified team policy. Mateo was also banned from participating in the MLB All-Star Futures Game. After the suspension, Mateo struggled, hitting just .236 in 38 games.
Mateo spent the spring working with big league assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames and triple-A hitting coach P.J. Pilittere. As he works to make adjustments offensively, the Yankees feel a little extra time at high-A Tampa will be beneficial.
If Mateo can show he can play center field, that could ultimately put him on a faster track to the big leagues. On the other hand, his versatility could also improve his stock in case the Yankees put together a package for a starting pitcher like Jose Quintana. Mateo will still get reps at shortstop and second base this season as well.
Regardless, Mateo still needs more seasoning before he finds his way to the Bronx, but his progression will be a storyline to keep an eye out for.