Cincinnati Reds: Mat Latos Becoming Bona Fide Starting Ace

Tyler Duma@@TylerDuma_BRFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 14: Mat Latos #55 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the game against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park on August 14, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Coming in to the 2012 season, all the talk around Mat Latos was about whether or not his return on investment would be worth the steep prospect package the Reds dealt to San Diego to land him.

In short, the answer to that question is yes.

Latos has been everything one could hope for in his first season with the Reds.

First think of the implications of being traded. Latos had to move himself and his wife to a new, unfamiliar city with new teammates, new coaches and new fans.

How many of you have ever faced that type of pressure to perform at your best? I bet not many.

In any event, Latos struggled in his first and third starts of the season, going 0-2 in that stretch with a 8.22 ERA, 1.89 WHIP and two home runs allowed.

However, since then—April 24, to be exact—Latos has been everything you could ask for in a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Throughout this time span, Lats has made 21 starts, going 10-1 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 123 K, a K/9 rate of 8.30 and a K/BB ratio of 3.24.

To put Latos' impressive stretch in perspective, 21 starts is four less than the leaders in games started in the NL. Even without counting his first three starts, Latos still would rank 22nd in the NL in strikeouts, his 8.30 K/9 would be 16th best, and his 3.24 K/BB would be good for 18th.

In this 21-game stretch, his ERA has decreased from 8.22 after his third start to its current 3.63 standing. His WHIP has decreased from 1.89 to 1.10.

He hasn't supplanted Johnny Cueto as the Reds No. 1, but Latos has certainly proven that he can be, at the very least, an overly capable No. 2.

Looking ahead, should the Reds make the playoffs, they'll have a very strong one-two punch with Cueto and Latos.

Should the season end today, the Reds would take on the L.A. Dodgers. The obvious Game 1 matchup is Cueto vs. Kershaw, but Game 2 would feature Latos vs. Capuano/Billingsley/Harang/Blanton.

Hard to argue that the Reds wouldn't have a great shot for, at the very least, a one-one split.

Looking even further ahead, think of the possibilities and potential for Mat Latos. He's 24 years old and under club control for the next three years (free agent eligible in 2016).

That means that the team will have both Latos and Cueto at least through 2014 and likely through 2015 with Cueto's team option in 2015.

Considering how young both players are—Latos is 24, and Cueto is 26—the Reds are likely to have two ace-caliber starters, in their physical primes, through each of the next three seasons.

With Homer Bailey starting to turn the corner, minor leaguers Tony Cingrani, Daniel Corcino, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett and 2012 first-round pick Nick Travieso, the future for Mat Latos and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation is very bright indeed.


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