There is a reason why the Reds gave up four players in exchange for the services of Mat Latos last offseason. The club fully expects Latos to blossom into one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the league. After 2012, he appears to be on the right track.
The right-hander posted career-highs in wins (14), innings pitched (209.1), starts (33), and complete games (2) in his first season as a Red. The 25-year old also posted a modest 3.48 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 4.2 WAR. Obviously, fans and the organization alike expect more of the same in the coming years.
Apparently, so does ESPN.com's David Schoenfield. Schoenfield touts Latos as one of "five players ready to become big stars" in a post published on Saturday. Here is what the senior writer had to say about Latos in particular:
With Johnny Cueto having a Cy Young-caliber season and Aroldis Chapman dominating out of the pen, there weren't many headlines left for Latos in 2012. With Latos coming over from the Padres in that big offseason trade, some projected that he would suffer moving out of Petco Park, but he finished 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA. He did allow a few more home runs, but that's going to happen in Cincinnati -- 18 of the 25 home runs he gave up came at home. Importantly, however, he didn't let the home runs affect his approach, and he actually finished with a lower ERA at home.Raise your hand if you're looking forward to seeing how Latos and the rest of the rotation performs this year? Yeah, I am raising my hand too. The '13 campaign looks very promising for the Queen City and Latos is certainly one of the reasons why.
Latos got off to a slow start in April -- including a blow-up, eight-run outing in St. Louis -- but posted a 3.09 ERA over his final 28 starts, losing just twice. He's a big horse out there at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds or so, and he crossed the 200-inning barrier for the first time. Although he sets up his fastball/slider/curveball arsenal with a solid 92-95 heater that he throws up in the zone, it's his slider that is developing into his key pitch. As you can see from the heat map, he gets it down and in to lefties and away from righties, exactly where you need to go. In 247 plate appearances ending with the slider, batters hit just .169 against him -- righties .161 and lefties .185.
I view Latos as a guy maturing into a staff ace and a sleeper Cy Young candidate in 2013, although it will be tough keeping that ERA under 3.00 pitching half his games in Cincy.