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An overlooked young stud: San Diego's Mat Latos

Jun 18, 2010, 7:30 PM EDT

It didn’t and shouldn’t have made headlines, but when Ubaldo Jimenez gave up eight hits and two walks over eight innings in his win over the Twins on Thursday, it took his formerly major league-best 0.98 WHIP up to 1.00.
The new leader is none other than 22-year-old Mat Latos. While Jimenez, Stephen Strasburg and David Price rack up headlines, Latos is on an extremely impressive run of his own. The right-hander, who probably would have been booted from San Diego’s rotation had Chris Young come back healthy at the end of April, is 7-4 with a 3.19 ERA. The league is hitting just .197 against him, and while that’s not quite as good as Jimenez’s .189 mark, he has the better walk rate of the two, having issued just 21 free passes. That gives him a 0.99 WHIP through 13 starts.
Of course, Latos has an obvious advantage over most, in that he pitches half his games in baseball’s most pitcher friendly ballpark. That hasn’t been a big factor in his success, though. Latos has a superior 2.72 ERA in his six home starts, but his WHIP in those games is 1.13. On the road, he had a .174 average against and a remarkable 0.87 WHIP. His ERA is inflated since his one awful start this season came in Florida, as he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings back on April 26.
After that outing, Latos was 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA. Wade LeBlanc had dazzled early after stepping into Young’s place in the rotation, so if Young had been activated from the DL in early May as originally planned, Latos probably would have found himself demoted to Triple-A. Of course, it didn’t work out that way. Young had a setback and still hasn’t returned, and Latos is now entrenched, having gone 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in nine starts since.
The one disappointing fact here is that Latos won’t be involved in what could be an epic NL Rookie of the Year battle between Jason Heyward, Jaime Garcia, Mike Leake and perhaps Strasburg. He pitched 50 2/3 innings for the Padres as a 21-year-old last season, barely exceeding the 50-inning limit.

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