Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 11/16/14
At this time last year I was telling everyone who would listen to stay away from Mat Latos. In two full season with the Padres, Latos had posted fantastic FIPs of 3.00 and 3.16, but FIP doesn’t account for the ballpark in which he pitched half of his games so his better-than-average 8.0% and 7.3% HR/FB rates weren’t adjusted to the higher league average marks.For that kind of converstion we need xFIP, which normalizes Latos’ HR/FB rates to the league average (this helps us look at how he really pitched if done in a league average park, which is useful when comparing pitchers changing teams). In 2010 and 2011 with the Padres, Latos posted xFIPs of 3.21 and 3.52, respectively. Still very good, but not quite as great.Now, that wouldn’t matter if Latos was spending the next several seasons in sunny San Diego, but last year he suited up for Cincinnati in a far more homer-friendly park. It would be nearly impossible for him to replicate those low HR/FB rates. Indeed that was the case; Latos posted an 11.3% HR/FB rate last year.But homers might prove to be a moot point moving forward as Latos has been able to keep the ball down better in recent seasons and has seen his ground ball rate rise. Last year’s 1.26 GB:FB ratio was a career best, and his 1.49 ratio after the All-Star Break shows how well he progressed in a new environment as the year wore on.There are a lot of factors that go into Cy Young voting every season, but in a star-studded starting pitching pool in the Senior Circuit, Latos is one of the best sleeper candidates out there.At a GlanceStrengths: W, L, QS, WHIP, KNeutral: ERA, K/9Weaknesses: nonePlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Matt Cain (SF)Likely scenario: Madison Bumgarner (SF), Johnny Cueto (CIN), Jered Weaver (LAA)Worst-case scenario: Doug Fister (DET)Mat Latos 2013 Fantasy ProjectionI was worried homers would plague Latos in Cincinnati, which has a park factor for home runs of 143. Despite the park he pitched in, Latos managed a very repeatable 11.3% HR/FB rate. While that still resulted in just a 3.85 FIP last year, it should be noted that Latos was able to pitch to a 3.48 ERA because of his ability to replicate his perennially low BABIPs. Normally I’d suggest that a .266 BABIP should rise and Latos should regress, and to a degree this is what we projected, but he’s never allowed opponents to hit line drives at a rate even remotely resembling league average — last year opponents had a line drive rate of 18.4%, and his career average is just 16.7%. Latos prevents solid contact and limits walks, and that’s a good recipe for success.It would be nice if he could get his strikeout rate back up, but we’ll need to wait another year to see if that happens. Last year Latos introduced a cutter about 20% of the time, a major change in his pitching approach.In the end he’ll likely have a sub-1.20 WHIP and an ERA in the 3.20-3.60 range with 180+ strikeouts, and he should win a lot of games for a strong Cincinnati squad. I feel Latos is an extremely safe bet for that kind of line with modest breakout potential as well (sleeper Cy Young!) and I’ve found myself drafting Latos as a low-tier ace in deeper fantasy formats. With an ADP of 70.0 in early Yahoo! mocks, Latos would be one of my primary starting pitchers targets.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Man fled from Jones' rental car after hit and run

Did Olynyk cost Celtics a chance at landing Love?

Adam Wainwright injury leaves innings void for Cardinals

Report: Cowboys not in running for Adrian Peterson

Kevin Love injury a powerful argument for playoff reform

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jon Jones wanted for questioning in hit and run

Pitcher throws perfect game with 23 strikeouts, still loses

Will LaMarcus Aldridge leave the Portland Trailblazers?

Wizards sweep listless Raptors

Clippers defeat Spurs, even series at 2-2

JR Smith 'nervous as hell' about possible suspension

Previewing Game 7 showdown between Islanders and Capitals

WATCH: Rick Carlisle tapes mouth shut so he can't rip refs

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the quarterbacks

Greg Hardy faces teammate, Cowboys locker room leak

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce burns Raptors fans with epic troll job

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

WATCH: Former NBA’er Darko Milicic is enjoying life

WATCH: Alex Gordon leaps into stands for incredible catch

WATCH: JR Smith ejected for hitting Jae Crowder in face

WATCH: Kevin Love leaves Game 4 with shoulder injury

Joe Flacco content with current Ravens receivers

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Cowboys not in on Peterson

NFL Draft 2015: Ranking the QBs

Top 10 storylines for the 2015 NFL Draft

Paul Pierce trolls Raptors fans

Yes, ESPN2 is airing video games

Darko Milicic is enjoying life

Pitcher throws perfect game, still loses

Will Aldridge leave the Blazers?

Alex Gordon leaps into stands for catch

Dana White: No more WWE for Rousey

Kevin Love rips Kelly Olynyk

JR Smith ejected for hitting Jae Crowder

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.