Mar 5, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) works out prior to the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
By Ryan Hatch
TAMPA — Maybe you heard the news from Saturday: prospects Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo have the Yankees dreaming of the future.
And they both seem to have received the seal of approval from one of the most respected veterans in the clubhouse: Carlos Beltran.
“He’s a good kid, man,” Beltran said of Mateo. “He listens. He’s very polite. Something that I don’t see often. Sometimes when I go to the cage and he’s in the cage, he gets himself out of the cage and calls me in. Those type of things. Of course, I would not take the space, but just to see that in a young guy, that he respects the guys around.
“It’s good to see. It reminds me some of myself when I was growing up and playing with veteran guys.”
Before camp started Beltran requested Judge, also a right fielder, have his locker placed next to his. If nothing else, Beltran’s said, to just help mentor him and teach him how to play in the big leagues.
“He’s an unbelievable talent,” Beltran said of Judge. “He’s working. He’s a guy that asks questions. He wants to learn. He has a great attitude. It’s great to see younger guys performing well.”
Judge, 23, is further along in his career than Mateo and probably needs less guidance off the field since he’s from the United States, having grown up in California.
Mateo, 20, is from the Dominican Republic and faces a cultural and language barrier every day. (He conducts interviews with reporters using a Spanish translator.)
Beltran, born and raised in Puerto Rico, says he can relate.
“I do talk to [Mateo],” Beltran said Saturday. “Today we were talking about family. He has family in the Dominican Republic. I was just telling him, I understand how difficult that can be, but just make sure you don’t lose focus on what’s going to take care of the family, and that’s your career.”
Mateo hasn’t played above high-A since 2012 but has a high ceiling. He swiped 82 bases last year, the most in the organization at any level, and is apparently showing he can put the ball over the fence, too.
“[The Yankees] know me pretty well,” Mateo said. “If I make the big club is up to them, but they know what kind of game I have.”
Maybe they don’t, though. Maybe it’s better than originally thought.