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…

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#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
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)


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.


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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

  • Stump

    I think we are getting away ahead of ourselves if we think Mastroianni is a CF for the Jays in 2011.

    Mastroianni will be 26 years old in August, 2011 and he has never even had a cup of coffee in MLB.

    Statistically a player at his age is a career minor league player and has at best about a 5 – 10% chance of even making it to Major League Baseball and even if he makes it, it is only only as a bench role. Based on his minor league stats, I predict a 5% chance of his advancement to the big leagues.

    A far more likely scenario is a trade in 2012 for an impact player at another position such as DH, 3B or Closer. Let’s see how Lind and Arencibia fare at their positions in 2011.

    Unless we see a phenomenal run of success by the Jays up to the Jul 31st trading deadline, I think we have seen the last of AA’s major deals for the Blue Jays in 2011.

    Surely we will see more deals which will enhance our minor league system, but no blockbusters that will propel our Major League club towards a pennant or wild card spot. Realistically we have too many positions to improve in 2011, (C, 3B, 1B, and CF). It would take a miracle to expect that we can compete in even 50% of these spots in 2011.

    I stick to my prediction of a 2012 contending team for an AL East pennant or wild card spot and a probable World Series spot for the Jays.

    • Jared Macdonald

      Stump, thanks for the detailed reply. I was waiting for someone to bring up his age, but I definitely agree with you that it’s unusual to see a player make his Major League debut at 26+ and stick. Sure, Mastro is going to be 25 years old in Spring Training, but it’s not nearly as bad as say, Randy Ruiz, who made his MLB debut at 30 years old.

      Looking at what age the player was when they made their Major League debut is usually deceiving too, as they usually appear in less than 20 games that season after the rosters expand, and don’t get regular at-bats (larger sample) until either the following season or even the season after that.

      Looking exclusively at CFs who were on 2010 Opening Day rosters, one doesn’t have to look too far to see someone that made their MLB debut at 25 years old: Rajai Davis.

      Davis appeared in only 20 games that year, and managed ONLY 14 at-bats. Though he did have 100 AAA games under his belt at the time of his call-up, he has been more than a bench player and has appeared in at least 113 games in each of the last three seasons.

      Other OFs off 2010 OD rosters (with OD age in brackets) include Rick Ankiel (27), Nyjer Morgan (26), Matt Diaz (25), Josh Willingham (25), Drew Stubbs (24), and Mitch Maier (24), who jumped straight over AAA into the Majors. The list goes on.

      If Mastroianni’s age is such a big factor and, based on your prediction, he only has a 5% chance of making it to the big leagues, why would teams even want him via trade either by himself or in a package? Furthermore, if he’s that unlikely to make the Majors, then how could he even be a part of a trade that would bring back “an impact player at another position such as DH, 3B, or Closer”?

      I agree with you that expectations for the 2011 squad are relatively low, with a playoff berth being highly unlikely. Even though the Jays could very well win a less games than they did in 2010, the upcoming season is VERY valuable and exciting one from a player development standpoint.

      Encarnacion and Lind are adjusting to a new position. Escobar will be in his first full season in Toronto. Snider will get a full season’s worth of Cito-less at-bats (finally!). Arencibia will get an everyday role and his output is unpredictable, either positive or negative. Aaron Hill will show either his 2009 side or his 2010 side. Bautista will have to make serious adjustments himself to the adjustments opposing pitchers will surely make when pitching against him. How will the Jays’ #4 (Drabek) and #5 (Stewart, Litsch, Rzep etc.) starters fare? This doesn’t even include the progress of prospects like Hech and Lawrie.

      Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that beyond roughly Romero, Morrow, Cecil and MAYBE some of the bullpen, virtually every position on the 2011 Jays is a question mark, which will become clearer at season’s end. With Davis locked up for 2-3 years and penciled in as the starting CF, there’s no reason why Mastro couldn’t crack the Jays out of ST as even a 4th OF.

      While it’s unlikely a position player like Mastro (usually a pitcher) could skip Triple-A entirely and immediately stick at the MLB level, the Jays’ lack of MLB potential depth at CF (31 year old Jorge Padilla, 34 year old Jason Lane, 31 year old Corey Patterson) gives Mastro a unique opportunity to crack the Major League squad.

      It’s the perfect year for him to do so as well, as there are clearly no championship aspirations by the team and 2011 is generally a feeling out process by the Jays in terms of what they have going forward.

      Would you rather see Rajai Davis at the plate 400 times this season (and I’m a fan of Davis’ actually), or see a prospect get a real shot (200+ at-bats) to show if he has something to offer? I’m not sure about everyone else, but I always like seeing kids getting a shot and growing on the big stage, especially when we can afford it.

      If AA acquires a 3B and Bautista goes back to RF though, the odds of Mastro cracking the club are obviously much lower.

      A recent article (1 week ago) in Baseball America about Mastro was titled “Mastroianni earns a big league shot”.

      That’s just my (borderline excessive) take, but thanks once again for getting involved on the site regularly and voicing your opinion!

      • Jeff Burton

        If you have Jose penciled in at third, and then consider the fact that the Jays want to play more small ball this year, having mastro on the bench out of spring training (assuming he plays decent there) doesnt seem that unlikely. Having some speed on the bench, and evaluating a prospect seems basically on par with what the jays seem to be gearing up for this year anyways.

  • Mat Germain

    Darin should (and most likely will), at the very least, get a chance to prove he is MLB ready for the following reasons:

    1 – If he blows people away and gets on base at a very high rate while stealing a ton of bases – our prediction – the Jays can either keep Rajai Davis as a 4th outfielder, or the more likely scenario has them trading him and his very affordable contract to another club that needs speed and OF flexibility for a playoff run.
    2 – If he does just an ok job, the Jays can then substantiate keeping him on as a 4th OF, pinch hitter and runner off the bench. That a perfect role for someone like Darin since he gets on base very well and steals a ton. Nothing wrong with that!
    3 – He’s earned it. As Jared stated above, from BA to most across the industry, the general belief is that it would be destructing his trade value or value to the team to not give him a shot in 2011 and to send him to AAA instead. Besides, do you think Corey Patterson and others would be happy on the Jays bench? Not nearly as happy as Darin would be.

    He’s a great “likely to surprise” story for the Jays as we head into 2011. Yes, Alex has probably dangled him around a few times, but when you’re trying to get the likes of Dan Uggla that makes a ton of sense. If anything, it shows you how highly AA thinks of Darin, he thinks a team will trade Dan Uggla for him and a one or two other prospects.

    It may take until July for him to make the Jays roster, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a Jays uniform well before that point.

  • Ryan

    The only qualm I really have is that putting a 23 year old kid who played college ball and has 2 pro years under his belt in A+ is hardly aggressive.

    In terms of his sheer numbers, they are hard to ignore. Especially when you look at the whole package. Patience is a skill that plays anywhere, and Mastro has some great walk rates. I’m personally pulling for him to get the 4th OF job, it makes more sense to give him a chance than to waste a year on Corey Patterson. However I’m thinking Mastro will start in AAA and make an appearance if there is an injury or if they DFA Patterson when he plays like a shlub.

  • lolwut

    I pretty see his ceiling being Davis. I believe he made it to the bigs at a similar age. Neither have much pop and while he has great OBP in the minors, he is also a few years older than most prospects there.

    I don’t share the same optimism on him as others, I pretty much see him being a good 4th OF on a contender like Davis would. I would have him few spots lower on the list.

  • Mylegacy

    If Wells was not gone I’d say his 2011 chances to make the team would be zero. With Vernon gone I see his chances as being about 15%.

    He won’t beat out Davis’ experience for CF – unless the Big R gets injured (always possible) or Darin hits 4 or 5 homers this spring – most unlikely. I see his fate similar to Brad Emaus (who I also loved) in Darin’s case his almost complete lack of power will do him in.

    In the system – with Gose and Marisnick near(ish) I just don’t think he’ll make it. He does have a chance to stay as a 4th outfielder, pitch runner (one of JMac’s role now)- I’d clearly prefer him over Patterson as the 4th guy if it came down to a choice there.

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