Mat Latos burst on the fantasy baseball scene in 2010 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and a 9.2 K/9 and finished as the #13 pitcher on ESPN’s player rater. While many of his owners that year would obviously target him in 2011, Latos did have signs of being a very risky pick in fantasy. He had a very large innings increase from 123 IP in 2009 (including minors) to 184.2 IP in 2010. He likely would have been shutdown were it not for the Padres actually being in the playoff race late that year. Latos was also risky because he began 2011 on the DL with bursitis in his shoulder.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when his 2011 season started out poorly. His April ERA was 4.98 and his ERA from the beginning of the year to the end of June was 4.24. On a team that averaged 3.66 runs the entire season, Latos was lucky to come out with five wins in this period. However, Latos turned it around and ended up pitching well enough the rest of the season to end with a very respectable 3.47 ERA.
Advanced stats show this improvement was legitimate. Latos improved on his xFIP every successive month of the season, from a 4.04 xFIP in April to an outstanding xFIP of 2.31 in the month of September. His September was especially impressive as in 36.2 IP, he only gave up only 8 runs, had 44 Ks, and only 5 BBs.
He has already shown that he has elite ability by finishing the entire 2010 season with a 3.21 xFIP and by having an amazing end to the 2011 season. The question heading into this year is whether or not he can pitch to his abilities for an entire season. Without the inning increase or injury coming into 2012 like he had in 2011, I think this year gives a much better chance that he will put everything together and produce more closely to what he did in 2010. Latos has the advantage of playing at PETCO so he should continue to have a below average HR/FB%. He also has the advantage of playing in a division that includes the Dodgers and Giants. He should not have a problem racking up quality starts.
Playing on the Padres, his problem will be wins, but he should get a few more in 2012 if he improves his ERA. For 2012, my preliminary projections are for him to be 13-11 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 200 K’s. With those numbers, he would easily good enough to be a solid #2 SP and a fantasy stud.”