Padres’ hurler Mat Latos tossed a one-hit shutout against the Giants Thursday night, picking up his second win in as many starts. In his last 17 innings, the 22-year-old has allowed no runs on just three hits and zero walks.

In other words, he’s been flat out dominant. This sparks the question fantasy managers are asking today: Is Latos really this good?

The 2006 11th rounder signed as a draft-and-follow in the spring of ‘07. His right arm ranked as one of the best available in the ‘06 draft, but signability concerns, and character issues allowed the San Diego Padres to nab him.

Latos offers a mid-90’s fastball with ridiculous downhill plane thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame. Baseball America refers to it as, “at least a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale.” He also throws a “late-breaking slider, which features fierce two-plane movement.” Latos’ changeup is an evolving pitch that “shows promise.”

The biggest difference between this year and last, has been his ability to limit his walks. In 50 2/3 innings with the Padres in 2009, Latos posted a 4.09 BB/9. In 43 1/3 innings this season, that number has dropped to a minuscule 1.87. This coincides with his career minor league walk rate of 2.3.

Through seven starts thus far, Latos boasts a 3.32 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. These totals are aided by an unlikely .224 BABIP and 80.8 percent left on-base rate, but his 3.68 xFIP suggests his success will likely continue.

In fact, his ERA is a bit skewed. If you throw out Latos’ disastrous start against Florida three weeks ago, his season ERA would be a ridiculous 1.99.

With his next three scheduled starts coming against the Giants, Mariners, and Nationals, Latos is a must-start in all fantasy leagues.

While the Padres’ flame-thrower doesn’t get the same attention as other young guns such as Phil Hughes, Clay Buchholz, and David Price, he’s just as electric.

Given his home ballpark factors, Latos should post respectable ERA totals and a decent strikeout rate on his way to solidifying his position on the 2010 All-Breakout Team. The 150-inning limit he’s on this season, however, could hamper his fantasy value down the stretch.

FBI Forecast: 150 IP, 12 W, 120 K (7.2 K/9), 3.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP


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