Mat Latos: Fantasy Baseball Sell High Candidate or Second Half Stud?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IJuly 12, 2010

SEATTLE - MAY 23:  Starting pitcher Mat Latos #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on May 23, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos has had an amazing first half. There’s really no other way to describe it, but you have to wonder if there is any possible chance that he can maintain that momentum after the All-Star Break.

Before we can answer that, let’s take a look at his first half line:

10 Wins
106.2 Innings
2.45 ERA
0.97 WHIP
99 Strikeouts (8.4 K/9)
28 Walks (2.4 BB/9)
.246 BABIP

Where he has made dramatic strides from the second half of 2009 is his control. He struggled last season after he was called up, posting a 6.9 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 over 50.2 innings of work. What he’s done in 2010, however, is much more indicative of his actual potential.

Over his minor league career (184.2 innings), Latos posted a K/9 of 10.6 and a BB/9 of 2.3. While the majority of that came against Single-A competition and below (he spent only 47.0 innings at Double-A before his call up), you still have to think he can replicate the numbers he’s posted thus far, instead of regressing to his 2009 trends.

As far as the luck, however, there’s no way to argue that he hasn’t been lucky. On top of the BABIP, he is also sporting an 82.3 percent strand rate. There’s little doubt that both of these numbers are going to regress, meaning his ERA and WHIP are both going to rise.

Are they going to go to unusable numbers? Not likely, but it’s hard to imagine him repeating a sub-1.00 WHIP in the second half either.

One of his advantages is a solid ground ball rate of 47.0 percent, coupled with pitching in a park that clearly favors pitchers. That ground ball rate is similar to his minor league mark (47.7 percent) and, when coupled with the strikeouts, helps to make his 0.8 HR/9 believable.

As I mentioned, the home ballpark also plays a role in limiting the home runs, though he’s excelled both at home and on the road:

  • Home: 2.23 ERA, 3 HR allowed over 44.1 innings
  • Road: 2.60 ERA, 6 HR allowed over 62.1 innings

The bottom line with Latos is that while he may regress some, he has the stuff to be a must use option the rest of the way and beyond. The biggest concern is an innings limit, with the Padres already beginning to manipulate the rotation to accomodate him.

That needs to be taken into account, especially if you are looking to lockdown a title in 2010. If you can swap him for an ace, given his potential regression and innings cap, I wouldn’t hesitate. It’s just the safer way to go, especially for 2010, and get more bang for your buck.

If you are looking more towards 2011, Latos is one of the best options you can get. He has control. He has strikeouts. He keeps the ball in the ballpark. The package is there for him to be an ace well into the future.

What are your thoughts on Latos? Would you like to keep him in 2010? How good do you think he can be?

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