By Joe Costello
Mat Latos is one of the current stud starting pitchers for the Cincinnati Reds and began pitching for them last season after he was traded from the San Diego Padres, with whom he had played since 2009. Latos was always viewed as a potential first round talent by scouts but fell until the 333rd overall pick (11th round) of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft on account of attitude problems he had during high school. As a result of this, the Padres decided to watch closely over Latos as he attended Broward College for a year then signed him only a few days before he would have re-entered the 2007 draft. Latos’ major league debut came on July 19, 2009; he would go on to win 4 of his first 5 major league starts. Fast forward a few years and the most recent memory many fans will have of Latos is him giving up a grand slam to Buster Posey in the 2012 NLDS elimination game. Latos went on to lose that game as the San Francisco Giants continued to roll, eventually winning the World Series.
Latos failed to crack double digit wins during his last season with the San Diego Padres in 2011. He finished the season with the following stat line: (9-14), 194 IP, 185 Ks, 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. These are very solid numbers across the board with the only blemish coming from the 9 wins which was largely a result of the putrid offense supporting him each time he took the mound. It would be safe to say that had Latos pitched for a top-16 offense that his win total would have certainly improved.
Now, let’s take a look at what Latos did last year in his first season with the Reds: (14-4), 209 IP, 185 Ks, 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Other than the record flip, Latos’ production remained virtually unchanged. We all know that wins and losses are largely out of a pitcher’s control which is why many hardcore fantasy sports owners employ the quality start over the “win” metric. So, you are probably asking yourself why it was important to bring this to your attention. Well, the reason is to demonstrate that Latos pitched in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks during his 2011 season with San Diego and then moved to one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in 2012 with Cincinnati. The fact that Latos was able to provide the same pitching quality regardless of the ballpark speaks volumes of his talent.
Let’s now take a look at Latos’ 2012 season split into halves. The first half looked like this: (7-2), 98 IP, 90 Ks, 4.42 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. His (K/9) ratio was 8.27 which is on par with his major league average so it is probably safe to assume that the inflated ERA came as a result of pitching in a new ballpark against newer opposition. During the second half of the season Latos settled down to the tune of: (7-2), 112 IP, 95 Ks, 2.66 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Now that we have broken down his 2012 season we can better understand the complete picture. Latos appears to be a lock for 200 IP, 180+ Ks, and very usable ERA/WHIP averages. He should also have no problem winning double digit games again thanks to Cincinnati’s loaded offense. The only knock on Latos appears to be that since 2009, he has had an average WHIP of 1.13 which is higher than what the true, upper echelon pitchers sport (his WHIP needs to recede down to around 1.00 to make that final leap and make him a “fantasy stud”).
Mat Latos will begin the 2013 season at the tender age of 25, yet displays the mound control of a seasoned veteran. He currently has 5 pitches in his arsenal: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, curveball and changeup which further demonstrate that he is not a one-trick pony. In fact, Mat Latos has a 42% strikeout rate when using his slider which is up there with the top major league starters. After digesting all of this, it would not appear a stretch to think that with only minimal gains across the board, that Latos could elevate himself into the plateau of the truly dominant hurlers. Now that he has a full season of learning NL-Central hitters as well as the dimensions of his home ball park, this may be the last time that fantasy owners can utilize his services without paying a draft day premium; once again, he is only 25-years-old.
Joe Costello is a staff writer for www.FantasyTrade411.com and can be reached on Twitter @jcswigga to answer any fantasy baseball or football questions. I am also available to answer any commissioner related questions as I currently serve as League President for both baseball and football leagues. You know what’s better than winning my own league? Helping you win yours…