SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Luis Matos made hitting look easy in his first two seasons in professional baseball. After signing for $725,000 out of Venezuela in 2018, he posted a 1.004 OPS in his pro debut the following summer and won MVP honors in the Low-A West League last year.
Ranked No. 63 among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects entering 2022, the Giants outfielder looked poised to further ascend that list at age 20. Instead he came down with a quad injury that cost him a month early in the season and he rarely looked like his usual self at the plate. He batted just .211/.275/.344 with 11 homers and as many steals in 91 games in High-A.
Matos, the third-ranked San Francisco prospect, said he looked forward to the opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League, which will allow him to face higher-level pitching and build some positive momentum going into 2023. He has done exactly that in the first three days of the developmental circuit’s season, going 5-for-14 (.357) and topping the AFL in home runs (two), extra-base hits (four), total bases (14) and RBI (nine).
On Wednesday, Matos went 2-for-5 with a double, homer and four RBIs as his Scottsdale Scorpions lost 6-5 to the Peoria Javelinas in a matchup of the Fall League’s only unbeaten teams. Now that he has recaptured his sweet right-handed swing, he’s displaying bat-to-ball skills that rank as the best in the Giants’ system.
“The season was a little bit difficult,” Matos said through translator Junior Betances, a hitting coach in the Guardians system and with the Javelinas. “I couldn’t find my swing. But I made some adjustments and worked with my hitting coaches, and right now I feel fine.”
An advanced hitter, Matos also could develop at least average power if he can add some strength to his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame. His blast off Javelinas right-hander Christian Scott (Mets No. 28) traveled 405 feet to left-center. He also has solid speed, good baserunning aptitude and a chance to stick in center field.
While his 2022 season was far from enjoyable, dealing with adversity for the first time could make Matos a better player in the long run.
“I’d never been hurt and this year I did get hurt,” Matos said. “It was more of a learning year. My mind has gotten stronger and I never gave up.
“I had a leg injury so I changed a little movement in my swing. I adjusted to use my lower body better, like I had before, and right now I’m starting to feel good.”
Matos’ three-run homer gave Scottsdale a 4-1 lead after three innings, but Peoria rallied with five runs in the last four frames. Catcher David Fry (Guardians) hit a two-run homer that traveled 385 feet in the seventh inning, right fielder Spencer Packard (Mariners) tied it with a sacrifice fly in the eighth before center fielder Brandon McIlwain (Mets) broke the deadlock with an RBI single in the ninth.