An overlooked young stud: San Diego's Mat Latos

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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.

Report: Arquimedes Caminero likely to sign with Yomiuri Giants

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 21: Arquimedes Caminero #48 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Safeco Field on August 21, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Brewers won the game 7-6. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.

The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.

Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.