Wagner Mateo, the power-hitting prospect in the Diamondbacks’ organization, was shipped from short-season Class A Hillsboro (Ore.) a week ago after struggling to start the season. Now comes the news that he’ll no longer be a slugger.
Mateo will begin the conversion from infielder to pitcher, the Missoula Osprey announced Wednesday. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty will begin a throwing program in Missoula immediately to help him prepare to join the Birds’ mound corps.
Osprey manager Robby Hammock said Mateo approached the coaching staff since his arrive in Missoula about the change. Now in his fourth minor league season, Mateo hasn’t ascended higher than Class A Visalia (Calif.) and he believed this could be a jumpstart for him.
“It was something that he was approached about before and he wasn’t ready,” Hammock said. “He thinks he’s ready now and you know he’s got potential, we think, and a good arm.”
The 20-year-old Dominican-born player was hitting .333 in four games of at-bats for Missoula. In that time, he had hit two doubles and a home run and knocked in five RBIs. On top of that, Mateo was also slugging .667 with a 1.042 OPS in the small sample size, both team highs.
Mateo hit just .156 in nine games with the Hillsboro Hops to start the season.
It was offense that helped Mateo become a sought after prospect coming out of Santo Domingo, D.R. in 2009, even earning him a $3.1 million contract and signing bonus from the St. Louis Cardinals. But the big league club quickly retracted the offer after a physical revealed possible issues with the vision in Mateo’s right eye.
The Diamondbacks scooped up the hitter a year later when he was 17 years old for a bargain-bin price of $550,000.
Though Mateo has been best known for his bat, he was also a finalist in the Bo Jackson Five-Tool Championship at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in 2009, so he’s no stranger to the wind-up.
It’ll be a bit of a project, but like Mateo when he arrived on the professional baseball scene four years ago, there’s potential an a lot of upside.
“He used to pitch before a long time ago and he’s just kind of an intriguing guy to get on the mound,” Hammock said.
The Osprey announced two other personnel moves Wednesday.
Right-handed pitcher Luis Ramirez was assigned to Missoula from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ affiliate in the Arizona League. Ramirez served as a closer in the AZL, going 1-0 with two saves in four appearances. The 21-year old from Loma de Cabrera, D.R., allowed one earned run on four hits in six innings, with two walks, two hit batsmen and nine strikeouts.
Ramirez joined the D-Backs as a minor league free agent last spring and spent his first year and change in the AZL.
The addition meant the Osprey needed a subtraction. Francisco Guzman, a lefty pitcher, was released by the organization.
Guzman was released after Tuesday night's doubleheader against Billings. He had a 6.23 ERA in four appearances with the Osprey this year, surrendering three earned runs on five walks and two hits over 4 1/3 innings, with one wild pitch and one hit batsman.