Top 50 Jays Prospects, Jays Journal Edition: #22 Darin Mastroianni

After Shane Opitz at #23, comes the player who easily benefited the most from last week’s Vernon Wells trade at #22…

Image courtesy of MLB.com

#22: Darin Paul Mastroianni

Center Fielder / 25 years old / 5′11″ 190 lbs

Born: August 26th, 1985 in Huntersville, North Carolina

Bats: Right    Throws: Right

High School: Fox Lane H.S.

College: University of Southern Indiana

Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 16th round (505th overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft

Jersey Number: #23 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Quick Facts:

  • Growing up in New York, his favorite baseball player was Derek Jeter
  • He also really enjoys watching Jose Reyes of the New York Mets
  • Favorite baseball movie is The Sandlot
  • 2010 Eastern League Post-Season All-Star
  • 2010 Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star
  • 2010 Eastern League Player of the Week for May 2nd to 8th
  • 2009 Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star
  • 2009 Florida State League Player of the Week for June 7th to 13th
Year Age Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
2007 21 A- 68 230 50 66 11 4 3 26 36 42 .287 .391 .409
2008 22 A 95 325 51 74 10 4 3 25 31 77 .228 .302 .311
2009 23 A+/AA 131 478 94 142 21 4 1 51 76 83 .297 .398 .364
2010 24 AA 132 525 101 158 25 7 4 46 77 96 .301 .390 .398

New Hampshire Fisher Cats Team Stats Ranking for Darin Mastroianni:

  • 1st in games (132), at-bats (525), runs (101), hits (158), triples (7), walks (77),  and stolen bases (46)
  • 2nd in batting average (.301)
  • 3rd in doubles (25), total bases (209), strikeouts (96), and on-base percentage (.390)
  • 5th in RBI (46)
  • 7th in OPS (.788)
  • 10th in home runs (4)

Interviews/Video:

1 Blue Jays Way interviews Mastroianni here

Video of Mastroianni hitting a single here

Video of Mastroianni performing the YMCA at the 2009 Florida State League All-Star Game here

Extra Information and previous experience:

Darin Mastroianni is one of the best stories in the entire Blue Jays’ Minor League system. A high school All-American as a middle infielder, Mastroianni went on to college at Winthrop University, a Division I school. He eventually got fed up with the little playing time he received, so he transferred to the University of Southern Indiana, a Division II school, for the 2006 season.

He found his calling at USI and, after getting the 2006 season under his belt, Mastroianni was spectacular the following year in 2007 as a junior. He went on to hit .409 that season, and set new school records in runs with 65, hits with 97, and total bases with 130. He also set a new single-season school record in stolen bases with 64, which was also the most in NCAA Division II. He was named the Region Player of the Year and a 1st team All-American, on top of being rewarded for his efforts in the classroom by being named a 3rd team Academic All-American in 2007.

Needless to say, it was evident that Mastroianni had the potential to be selected in the 2007 draft. His Division II statistics were likely the reason he plummeted to the 16th round, but the Blue Jays scooped him up with the 505th overall selection. Mastroianni signed quickly with the Jays and was able to get in a complete season with the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League.

The Jays decided to stick with him primarily as a second baseman, and he managed to hit .287/.391/.409 along with 11 doubles, 26 RBI, and 42 strikeouts in 68 games. He led the Doubledays in on-base percentage (.391) and stolen bases (20), and finished third on the team in OPS (.799).

Steve Miller, the only Jays scout that watched Mastroianni play prior to the draft, had recommended Darin to Jays executives as a center field prospect before they drafted him, not as a second baseman.

The Jays ended up trying that idea out in 2008, when Mastroianni was promoted to Class-A Lansing and spent the bulk of his time in center field with mixed results. Aside from the 70 games he spent in center field, Mastroianni spent 18 in left field and 2 at his former position, second base. While Mastroianni struggled at the plate, managing a .228/.302/.311 slash line, he still logged 4 triples and 31 walks, and impressively went 30-for-31 in stolen base attempts.

The Jays attributed his offensive struggles to a higher level of difficulty and adjusting to both a new position and playing full season baseball. The Jays were more impressed with Mastroianni’s speed and defensive improvements, given the fact that he contributed 10 outfield assists while committing just 4 errors in 88 games in the outfield. He was aggressively promoted to Hi-A Dunedin to open the 2009 season.

“I was an alright infielder, but I wasn’t anything special. I can use my skills more as an outfielder. Obviously I can run, so I can make up for my mistakes,” Mastroianni said about the position switch in an interview with Baseball America recently.

Mastroianni definitely used his skills more as an outfielder in 2009. After having offseason elbow surgery, he managed to stay with Hi-A Dunedin for only 61 games, where he hit .325/.426/.390 and went 32-for-39 in stolen base attempts, before he was promoted yet again to Double-A New Hampshire. He made the most of his opportunity with Double-A New Hampshire by hitting .271/.372/.340 and going 38-for-46 in stolen base attempts.

Between Hi-A and Double-A in 2009, Mastroianni appeared in 131 games, doubling his hits, RBI, walks, and doubles from 2008, and finished third in the entire Minor Leagues in stolen bases behind some guy named Anthony Gose and shortstop Dee Gordon. It was his first season playing exclusively in the outfield, where he registered a whopping 17 assists from center field in 111 games and 2 more from left field in 10 games, all while committing just 5 errors in 121 games in total. His keen eye at the plate was also noticed, as Baseball America rated him as having the best strike zone judgment in the Florida State League.

Even though Mastroianni had been outstanding at each level he played at, he was constantly snubbed in prospect rankings and other publications. I remember thinking, prior to the 2010 season, what happens if he has a strong 2010 campaign and makes a name for himself, even though the Jays have Vernon Wells entrenched in center field through the 2014 season?

Well, it’s funny how both of those issues sorted themselves out. With Wells being dealt unexpectedly to the Angels last week, it’s even better that Mastroianni had as successful of a 2010 season as he did.

Most fans know the kind of year Mastroianni had this past season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats: .301/.390/.398 slash line, 25 doubles, 7 triples, 4 home runs, 46 RBI, 77 walks, and 7 outfield assists in 132 games. On top of emerging as an ideal leadoff hitter, Mastroianni’s 158 hits, 101 runs, and 46 stolen bases were all new single-season records for the Fisher Cats.

“I’ve been really happy with my season. Not only have the numbers been there, which is always a plus, but my progression has been good. I understand a lot more about my swing this year, and I put a lot of work into my defense. When you play the kind of game that I do, you have to play good defense,” Mastroianni said to Baseball America about his unbelievable 2010 campaign.

As if that wasn’t enough, take a look at the numbers he logged in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2010:

I addressed Mastroianni’s Winter League success back on November 13th, and he continued to rake after that post. The only “knock” on Mastroianni’s Winter League stint in Venezuela was that he hit just .200/.310/.240 over his final 10 games, but who really cares?

Expected 2011 Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: MLB leadoff-hitting CF

The Blue Jays felt so high about Mastroianni that they added him to their 40-man roster prior to the 2010 Rule 5 Draft, and you can bet he likes his chances now that Vernon Wells has been shipped out of town.

Mastroianni could become the Jays’ starting center fielder and leadoff hitter next season, with Rajai Davis as the fourth outfielder option. Even if that setup is likely reversed come Opening Day though, it would at least allow Mastroianni the opportunity to show the Jays what he can bring to the table at the Major League level.

When asked about what pitcher he would want to face the most if he ever had the chance, Mastroianni replied:

I would say A.J. Burnett, because if you get on base, he’s pretty slow to the plate.

In 2011, he just might get that chance.

-JM

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Tags: A.J. Burnett Anthony Gose Darin Mastroianni Dee Gordon Derek Jeter Jose Reyes Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim New York Mets New York Yankees Toronto Blue Jays Vernon Wells

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