Mat Latos: 2015 Rebound Series

Jun 30, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos (55) pitches during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Mat Latos has been one of my favorite pitchers over the past couple of years due to the fact that he generally puts up strong numbers and has a nice arsenal of pitches.  Quite simply, I just enjoy watching Latos pitch.  From 2010 to 2013, Mat Latos was very effective in both fantasy and real life for the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds.  However, he was hampered in 2014 by a host of injuries, declining velocity, and a steep drop in strikeouts in 102.1 innings.

Why Mat Latos will rebound:

Before the San Diego Padres became the belle of the ball in terms of December trading, the Florida Marlins were making a few exciting moves.  After inking Giancarlo Stanton to the biggest baseball contract ever and trading Andrew Heaney for Dee Gordon, the Miami Marlins acquired Mat Latos in a trade with the Reds.

Even after a relatively down year with the Reds, Mat Latos posted a 3.25 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in roughly half a season.  His 2.29 BB/9 was the best mark of his career and many of his peripherals fell fairly close in line with his career numbers.  A 3.65 FIP is not too shabby all things considered and his career 3.41 FIP is a testament to his skill.

Mat Latos is also going to be playing for the Miami Marlins, which is home to one of baseball’s most forgiving parks for pitchers.  Furthermore, the NL East should be a pretty easy group to compete against with the Braves rebuilding, the Mets being loaded on the mound and not at the plate, and the Phillies just being terrible.  Going from Cincinnati to South Beach could be the difference between a good and great season for Latos.

Since he missed half of the season, it is pretty obvious to note that Mat Latos had to overcome his fair share of injuries in 2014.  I personally think he was hampered by these injuries even when he was “healthy” this past season.  A full off-season of rest, rehabilitation, and training could be huge to his potential performance.

The combination of entering his prime at 27, impressive career numbers and skill, moving to a park that is much better for pitchers than Cincinnati, and the chance to get healthy this off-season means that Mat Latos is a strong candidate to improve from a shortened season that was still mildly effective.

Why Mat Latos may fail:

Beyond injuries, there were a couple other problems for Latos in 2014.  First of all, his ability to strike batters out simply disappeared.  He went from a starter with strong stuff that resulted in a K rate usually between eight to nine strikeouts per nine innings to one who posted a meager 6.51 K/9 this year.

The lack of strikeouts led to his worst K/BB and K-BB% since his 50.2 innings pitched in 2009.  The 2.85 K/BB is not terrible, but his 11.4% K-BB% is below league average.  Latos used to excel in that statistic because he was able to fan hitters and walk under three batters per nine.  The decline in these metrics demonstrates the sharp drop-off in his ability to miss bats.

The second issue of Mat Latos in 2014 is linked to his declining strikeout rate.  Mat Latos saw his velocity drop across the board even though he was only 26 years old this season.  He threw his fastball around 92-93 MPH in the past couple of seasons, but his four-seam fastball sat around 90-91 MPH in 2014.  The two MPH drop led to Latos not striking out batters like he did in the past.

Since this is an article about a player bouncing back, I believe that the velocity issues were caused due to his array of injuries.  I think that he can return back to the 91-92 MPH range next season, continue to maintain a low ERA, and bring up his strikeout numbers from 2014 in a stadium that is very favorable for pitchers.