Giants Talk

Could Matos be next Giants prospect to join youth movement?

Luis Matos was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in May and has been hitting well with the River Cats.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' 2023 MLB season now has become in large part about rookies who have hit the ground running, but that didn't start with Casey Schmitt and Patrick Bailey

Blake Sabol is a Rule 5 pick with just 25 games of experience in Triple-A, but the Giants felt comfortable putting him on their Opening Day roster, and they've been handsomely rewarded. Brett Wisely also arrived before Schmitt and Bailey, and he has played about twice as many big league games as he did in Triple-A for the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Giants, struggling at the plate but helping with his defensive versatility.

If Schmitt is now a permanent big leaguer -- and it certainly appears that's the case -- he'll have played 65 total games in the upper minors. Bailey moved even faster, playing just 14 games in Double-A and 14 more in Triple-A before a promotion to the big leagues. He arrived a couple weeks ago with reliever Ryan Walker, who has just 22 career appearances in Triple-A. 

The kids are moving fast, and more importantly, they're quickly proving they belong. That will make it easier for the front office to stay aggressive, and Kyle Harrison isn't the only top prospect who now appears very, very close to a 2023 debut. 

Luis Matos' 2022 was a huge disappointment, but the Giants promoted him from High-A to Double-A anyway, and he played just 31 games there before a May promotion to Sacramento. The bat has been even hotter in Triple-A. 

Matos hit .304 with a .842 OPS in Richmond, a tough environment for hitters, and is at .362 and .896 in Sacramento. His three-hit game on Wednesday was his second in a row and fourth in 13 Triple-A games, but it's not just the batting average that sticks out for the young outfielder. The most important statistic for Giants minor leaguers is strikeout-to-walk ratio and Matos earned an early promotion with good swing decisions, walking 17 times to just 12 strikeouts in Double-A. It's a small sample, but he has five walks and four strikeouts in Triple-A.

"He's walking more than he's striking out. He's putting the ball in play, putting the ball in play with authority," manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday. "I had people send me some clips from last night's game and there was one at-bat, in particular, when I guess he fouled off a 99 mph fastball up in the zone and then fought through the at-bat and lined the ball to right field. It was something along those lines, I don't know if I have the story perfectly pitch-by-pitch, but by all accounts and everything I've seen, he looks like he's off to a good start in Triple-A. 

"It's promising because this time last year, much of Luis' year was a struggle with a lot of pop-ups. This year it's walks, it's plate discipline, it's line drives, it's hitting for average. He's at Triple-A as the youngest position player there, I think. It's a pretty cool combination of events."

A quad injury sidelined Matos for much of the 2022 season and he never felt fully healthy when he returned. After entering the year on Top 100 lists, he posted a .619 OPS with High-A Eugene. The Giants gave him a long look this spring, though, and saw a player who was healthy and back at his best. 

Matos is just 21, but he had to be put on the 40-man roster in the offseason, which means it wouldn't be difficult to give him an audition at some point this summer. He is in a different spot than Schmitt and Bailey, though, and not just because he's far younger than even those two were when they arrived. 

Schmitt's glove made him the choice when the Giants needed help at shortstop after an injury to Brandon Crawford and Bailey got the call after injuries to Roberto Perez and Joey Bart, along with the release of Gary Sanchez. The Giants have a lot more depth in the outfield, even with Michael Conforto's heel injury. 

Matos is a center fielder, but they currently have Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Bryce Johnson and Wisely on the big league roster. Sabol and Mitch Haniger will handle most of the time in the corners if Conforto needs a few days to heal.

After he gave a Conforto update on Wednesday morning, Kapler was asked if Matos would be an option for any open spot. He said the Giants would "like to see him continue to perform in Triple-A for a while," but added that roster needs can change quickly. 

"There's no rush on anybody's part," Kapler said. "It's good that he's performing well at Triple-A, he's on the 40-man and an option at some point."

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