TRENTON — Jorge Mateo is neither a bird nor a plane, but he might be faster than both. The 22-year-old Yankees prospect with superhero numbers has sped past almost everyone in Double-A since his promotion to Trenton on June 27.
In his first 11 games, the shortstop hit .442 with a home run, three triples, 14 RBIs and 15 runs in 43 at-bats.
Mateo hit .522 during his first week with the Thunder, earning Eastern League player of the week as he dazzled his new coaching staff with a coveted mix of blazing speed and sneaky power.
On Friday night, he and his teammates were wearing Spiderman-inspired uniforms in a 2-1 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Superhero Night at Arm & Hammer Park. The jerseys, of course, are a tie-in to the new movie “SpiderMan: Homecoming.”
Too bad they weren’t paying tribute to the Flash — or Superman — instead.
“Jorge is a dynamic player,” Thunder hitting coach Tom Slater said after Mateo went 1-for-4 with a double and showed off his arm by firing a strike from shallow centerfield to catch a runner at the plate in the third inning.
“He’s one of the fastest ballplayers in all of baseball and, on top of that, he has the ability to drive the baseball,” Slater added. “He’s fast and he can hit the ball out of the park. That’s a great combination to have. He’s working extremely hard and is doing a great job getting the barrel to the baseball with consistency right now. You combine that with the fact that the man can really run and it’s fun to watch.”
Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell agreed.
“He can be a big-league, dynamic player,” Mitchell said. “No doubt about it.”
Mateo may face a couple of roadblocks in his quest to reach Yankee Stadium. The parent team is solid up the middle with Didi Gregorius at short, Starlin Castro at second and injured minor-leaguer Gleyber Torres on the radar at both positions when he returns next year.
Mateo, who can also play second base and centerfield, will work on expanding his defensive options, Mitchell said.
“I will welcome any opportunity that I could get to play anywhere,” Mateo, a Dominican Republic native, said through a translator. “The most important thing is to help the team, whatever the need may arise, I’ll be ready for whatever comes. One thing that is very cool about this is that there’s so many good players [at shortstop]. It’s great competition. It’s good for all of us.”
If he keeps up this sort of production, Mitchell said he could foresee a scenario in which Mateo is sent up to the big club this season.
“I think he could be up there at the end of this year possibly, because of his speed,” he said. “They probably would use his speed a lot. He’s not going to start up there very often, but he could go up there and pinch run, steal a bag and real ly help them.”
Mateo’s error in the top of the ninth inning Friday night, bobbling a grounder as he went to his left, erased Trenton’s chance at a shutout and gave the Fisher Cats a shot at a comeback. But Mateo redeemed himself immediately, making a nice, smooth play up the middle for the final out.
After a potential game-changing moment, Mateo came to the rescue. Because in comics, as well as in baseball, the hero always comes through.