Player Profile: Vin Mazzaro

The Royals always seem to make a move when I’m not around the internet to see it happening, and tonight was no exception. They dealt beloved David DeJesus to Oakland for pitchers Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. Like Arias and Zawadzki, I wanted to clarify just who these guys are for you Royals fans. Here’s the rundown on Mazzaro.

Vin Mazzaro was drafted by Oakland in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft out of high school in New Jersey. He’s a right-handed pitcher and wields a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, curve, and change, from what I can tell. Pitch F/X data also claims he has a knuckle curve, but I’ll reserve that judgment until I see him pitch. He is a starter by definition, but, like many young starters, has seen some time out of the bullpen as well. In his three starts and one relief appearance against the Royals, Mazzaro went 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA, throwing 19.2 innings.

 

The A’s started Mazzaro fast, as he began his professional career with now-Royals-affiliate Kane County at the A level. In his first two seasons in the minors, Mazzaro took the mound 52 times, compiling a 5.21 ERA with a FIP of 3.94 in his first season (A) and 4.44 in his second (A+). At 21, Mazzaro set the world on fire with his 1.90 ERA and 3.00 FIP at AA, vaulting him to AAA that same season. This proved a challenge, as he posted a 6.15 ERA and 4.00 FIP the rest of the 2008 season at AAA.

However, in 2009, Mazzaro flashed a 2.38 ERA and 3.32 FIP at AAA, earning him a promotion to Oakland for 17 games. In the majors, Mazzaro struggled a bit (5.32 ERA and 4.93 FIP), which made the A’s staff decide to start him at AAA in 2010. After just 7 appearances this season, Mazzaro returned to Oakland and had a solid year, shown by his 4.05 ERA and 4.13 FIP. Obviously, those are the most spectacular numbers you’ll ever see, but for a then-22-year-old pitcher, they aren’t bad.

 

As for his other statistics, Mazzaro compiled 409 strikeouts in 538 minor league innings, walking 192 in that span (2.13 K/BB). His WHIP over that time was 1.372 and he allowed 9.1 hits/9 and 0.5 HR/9, though he did allow fewer hits in AAA than that average. In the majors, Mazzaro has a 5.81 K/9, 3.75 BB/9, 1.31 HR/9, 1.55 K/BB, and 1.09 GB/FB. Right-handed batters have hit .274/.342/.431 against him; left-handed batters, .304/.375/.470 (in the majors). He has had a considerable home/road split due to the A’s home park, showing a .265/.339/.410 line at home and .306/.374/.480 on the road.

 

I mentioned his pitch types, but here are his percentages for each pitch in his total time in the majors:
  • 63.0% fastballs
  • 22.1% sliders
  • 9.4% changeups
  • 5.5% curveballs
  • 1.0% undefined
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    The amount of sliders, curveballs, and undefined pitches are fairly constant across the two seasons (within 1.5%), but he actually threw 5% fewer fastballs in 2010 and 4% more changeups. It doesn’t seem that this changed much overall, but it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers change as he comes to the Royals.

    I am cautiously optimistic about Mazzaro’s ability in the future, but also don’t want another O’Sullivan on our hands. At this point, it seems that he should be better than Bannister has been. However, he doesn’t have a great K/BB, though his strikeout rate itself isn’t completely horrible. The fact is that his fastball averages about 93 mph while his changeup is 86. That’s a reasonable difference, but not enough to throw off batters. His curveball actually runs around 82 mph, but it’s been fairly hittable compared to his fastball or slider.

     

    I’m not a scout by trade, but I play one on the internet. Therefore, I pass to guys like John Sickels and Keith Law to provide more information. Sickels had this to say after Mazzaro’s first major league start in 2009:

     

    I still have some concerns: he walked four guys in his 6.1 innings, with just one strikeout, and a ratio like that won’t lead to success over the longer term. But it’s clear he’s made substantial improvements improving his stuff and refining his command, way ahead of where he was two years ago. I think he can be a solid number three type starter if he continues to refine his secondary stuff and if he stays healthy. He has made my predictions look pretty bad the last couple of years, so we’ll see how that expectation holds.

     

    As for Keith Law, I found a chat a while back that had him quoted as saying Mazzaro has no chance at being an ace. That follows in line with what Sickels had to say. In another chat, he said this: “I’m not a huge Mazzaro fan – it’s velocity and control, but not enough else.” However, in 2009, Keith did rank Mazzaro as the number 4 prospect in the Oakland system, so he likes him enough to go that far (though there weren’t many other names there).

     

    On a day when the Royals released a great guy (not great player) in Brian Bannister, it seems that they made an upgrade by adding on Vin Mazzaro. He’s younger, cheaper, and more productive than Bannister, which puts the Royals in a good place for the coming years. This also seems to be a part of Dayton’s desire to decrease the payroll during the offseason, as DeJesus’ $6 million contract for next season is turned into a very cheap contract that will remain low for several years. I like this more than O’Sullivan, but it makes me wonder what could’ve been had for DeJesus while he was healthy.

     

    I really don’t know what else Dayton might have been able to get for DeJesus, but I like to think he could’ve gotten more. DeJesus’ injury this season really changed things, though, so for all I know that let teams back off on any trade offers they did have on the table. It seems more like a kneejerk reaction to a trade offer than a solid consideration, and I have a hard time accepting that this is the best that could be done. I hope that Mazzaro can prove me wrong, but I’m just not sure how much we really gain from this.

     

    Let me know what you think of the trade and of Mazzaro in the comments.

     

    *Stats from Baseball Reference, Texas Leaguers, and Fangraphs.

     

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    Tags: AL Central Baseball David DeJesus Justin Marks Kansas City Royals KC MLB Royals Vin Mazzaro