In a late offseason acquisition that was shrewd if not meticulous, Mat Latos served to throw a wrench in the proverbial works of my mind. As Erik Johnson continues to face control and velocity issues early in camp, it’s becoming clear that Mat Latos will most likely be the fifth starter in the White Sox 2016 rotation.
Latos comes with his share of demons himself. Plagued with injuries that we can only hope the White Sox superb track record of pitcher health can subdue, his numbers showed a considerable decline between three teams in 2015. Pitching for the Marlins, Dodgers and Angels, Latos posted a career high 4.95 ERA last season accompanied by a 3.72 FIP, but a 4.53 DRA. Latos will be bringing a 11.6 percent HR/FB rate with him to the hitter friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field which doesn’t exactly bode well, either. While poor mechanics were thought to be the culprit of his 2014 knee injury, we can assume that to be quite fixable by the wisdom of Don Cooper, so perhaps all is not lost.
One of the most evocative details about Latos though, is that if you look at his comparables in the 2016 BP annual, you’ll see that the first name on the list is, in fact, Chicago’s own troubled lefty, John Danks. Don’t worry, the final name of the three listed is Bartolo Colon, so perhaps that will pan out instead.
Latos does have the capability to be a sufficient back-end starter for the White Sox, though, posting ERAs in the mid-low 3.00 range throughout most of his career, and DRAs in the 3.50-3.75 range from 2011-2014. His main goals in 2016 will be to stay healthy and mitigate the home run totals, while raising his withering 2015 strikeout rate.
Nevertheless, Latos can’t do much harm on a one-year, $3 million deal. In fact, he could end up becoming a steal at that rate if all goes well. So, all that’s left to do now is close our eyes and cross our fingers.