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Speedy prospect Mateo to make debut Tuesday

Athletics raving about 22-year-old's 'freakishly good' athleticism
MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- The best athlete in Oakland's organization will soon be unveiled in green and gold.

Speedster Jorge Mateo, who was slowed in the early going of camp by a lingering left knee injury, is scheduled to make his highly anticipated Cactus League debut against the Rangers at Hohokam Stadium on Tuesday.

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MESA, Ariz. -- The best athlete in Oakland's organization will soon be unveiled in green and gold.

Speedster Jorge Mateo, who was slowed in the early going of camp by a lingering left knee injury, is scheduled to make his highly anticipated Cactus League debut against the Rangers at Hohokam Stadium on Tuesday.

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"More relief for the trainer," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "because I'm on him every day about getting him into games."

This will be Melvin's first look at Mateo in game action. To this point, the rumors seem too good to be true.

"He's one of the fastest guys you'll see on a baseball diamond," A's outfielder Dustin Fowler said. "Honestly, he's one of the fastest guys I've ever seen. I don't know how he would compare to Billy Hamilton and them, but he's a freakishly good athlete."

Mateo, 22, was once considered untouchable in the Yankees' system. Fowler, too, likely would have been off the table had he not suffered a season-ending knee injury. Yet here they are, in a new uniform, after the A's inquired on both -- and then some, also acquiring right-hander James Kaprielian, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, in a trade for Sonny Gray last summer.

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Fowler, already back in game action following a taxing rehab process, is expected to be in center field for the A's come Opening Day. Mateo might not be too far behind.

For the time being, though, the A's don't have a position for him. Melvin said he plans to keep him at shortstop this spring, but he's also capable of playing center.

"He can play anywhere," Fowler said. "He's a freak when it comes to running. He's got the talent to be whatever kind of player he wants. He's pretty gifted."

Speed is undoubtedly Mateo's best tool, and he's got a rifle of an arm, too. But he also impressed at the plate upon joining Double-A Midland last year, hitting .292 with four home runs, 16 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs in 30 games.

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Mateo is slated for a stint with Triple-A Nashville to begin the regular season, but executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has not ruled out an in-season promotion should Mateo force their hand. His dynamic play has fashioned quite the buzz in A's camp.

"Whenever you make a trade like that and have three high-profile guys, there's some anticipation," Melvin said. "And then there's the skillset on top of that, so a lot to be excited about."

Fowler added: "He's one of them guys that can go out and play well no matter how long he takes off. I'm anxious to see him. I know the guys here are ready to see him, see how athletic he is. He'll do great. He's always been a heck of a ballplayer."

Video: Prospect Watch: Jorge Mateo

Only left-handers A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo and middle infielder Franklin Barreto rank higher on the A's prospect list, according to MLB Pipeline, than Mateo, who has 234 stolen bases in 452 Minor League games.

Fowler comes in at No. 5 on that list. He's considered no slouch on the basepaths either, but never would he consider engaging in a foot race with Mateo.

"I'll let him take the victory on that," he said. "I don't want to get humbled."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Jorge Mateo