The Baltimore Orioles have some decisions to make in their infield this year. Jorge Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Baseball outlook is a bit cloudier as Gunnar Henderson is projected to be an everyday player after making his season debut in September of 2022.
Ramon Urias played in 118 games last year and he made the most of his time in the lineup (.248/305/.414). Additionally, the recent addition of Adam Frazier only makes things murkier for the 2023 Opening Day lineup.
But, don't forget about Mateo, the AL leader in stolen bases in 2022.
--plunked in the chest/neck area
--checked on at first base twice with a pickoff
--steals second base
Immaculate scenes. pic.twitter.com/HAILtQ6qPz
— Zach Silver (@zachsilver) June 19, 2022
As it stands today, Gunnar Henderson is most likely going to be the everyday third baseman for the O's while SS and 2B are still up in the air.
Middle infield projections for the Orioles this year are showing a bit of variance as Baltimore has Ramon Urias, Adam Frazier, and Mateo to fit into only two middle infield positions.
Mateo's future utilization in the Baltimore lineup is simply unknown. As mentioned earlier, Mateo led the entire American League in stolen bases in 2022 with 35 steals in 44 attempts. He also won a Fielding Bible Award, the first Orioles shortstop to do so. Not too shabby. However, his bat is his main downfall.
Let's dive into how we see the Orioles utilizing Jorge Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Baseball outlook.
Jorge Mateo in 2022
In 2022, Mateo appeared in 150 games while starting at shortstop for 142 of those games. The other eight appearances included two as a pinch-hitter and five as a pinch-runner. He did not appear in any other position throughout the year. However, in 2021, Mateo did appear in 18 games as a second baseman, one game as a third baseman, and two games as an outfielder. Clearly, shortstop is his strength.
As for his bat, this is where the downside manifests itself. Through 150 games, Mateo slashed .221/.267/.379 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also managed to strike out 147 times while only walking 27 times.
Through observing his advanced batting statistics and MLB percentile rankings, we can see more clearly where the glaring issues exist -
As you can see from the image above, things did not look good in 2022.
Aside from his Outs Above Average and Sprint Speed metrics, things looked downright awful for Mateo.
Let's highlight a few percentile rankings. Mateo ranked in the 12th percentile in Whiff% which reflected his high strikeout number of 147 in 2022. Additionally, his 13th percentile K%, 10th percentile Chase Rate, and 12th percentile BB% are areas of improvement for his upcoming season, to say the absolute least.
Jorge Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
Mateo's clear strengths reside in his stolen base ability and his fielding. However, those two strengths don't bode well for an everyday role in an infield that includes Gunnar Henderson, Ramon Urias, and Adam Frazier.
Both Urias and Frazier get on base at a much higher rate (both .300+ OBP in 2022) than Mateo while also striking out less and walking more.
A platoon role looks to be coming Mateo's way sometime in 2023, I'm just not sure when. I do believe Mateo will begin the year as the shortstop for the O's but Urias and Frazier's abilities at the plate forecast a far higher likelihood of everyday playing time, which is where things get crowded.
Gunnar Henderson will make his presence felt as the everyday third baseman for the Orioles, while Urias and Frazier battle it out for second-base rights. Mateo will be penciled in at shortstop for now.
The platoon would come into play if and when Mateo begins his struggle at the plate and how bad it becomes. This would cause Baltimore to shake things up a bit.
This scenario would most likely have Gunnar Henderson moving to shortstop while Urias (Gold Glove winner at third base in 2022) plays third and Frazier would take the role at second base. I don't necessarily see this as an unlikely scenario.
Either way, don't look for Jorge Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Baseball outlook to have anywhere near the playing time he had in 2022. His offensive numbers just don't make me very confident and I struggle to see Baltimore letting him struggle for too long.
Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Impact
Currently, Mateo's ADP sits at 275. He is the 27th-ranked shortstop in the MLB. Moreover, he only has SS eligibility.
By no means should you allow Mateo to be your number-one shortstop, but if that's how it works out, you're ok for a little bit. Don't get comfortable though. Ideally, you grab someone who has shortstop eligibility but starts elsewhere.
Projections for Mateo's stolen bases this year range from 16 to 26 which are both significant downgrades compared to his 35 in 2022.
Playing time issues seem to be the consensus here. You can't steal bases if you're not playing. However, I'm unsure if Mateo finishes this season on the Orioles.
Mateo is very cheap though. If you're looking for some speed late in the draft and don't have some already, Mateo won't necessarily hurt you in that regard. Who knows, he could end up being serviceable at the plate. He could bat .230 and steal 30 bags - it's not impossible, just quite unlikely.
I'm not licking my chops waiting to grab Mateo and thinking I found a diamond in the rough. If he's there late and you're happy with your team, grab him. If you have steals elsewhere to go along with a solid shortstop, I'd pass on depending on Jorge Mateo's 2023 Fantasy Baseball outlook.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Draft Kit and look for a list of players that could replicate Mateo's 2022 production this season!