There has been some buzz this offseason regarding Cory Mazzoni possibly making the Mets’ Opening Day roster as a reliever. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Mets do have to fill some holes in the bullpen and many have seen Mazzoni as a player that could transition to the pen now that there is such a strong stable of arms in the Mets’ farm system.
Mazzoni was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft out of North Carolina State University. He was originally drafted in 2008 by the Washington Nationals, but didn’t sign (26th round). He only pitched 13 innings in 2011, split between Brooklyn and St. Lucie. He started the 2012 season in St. Lucie where he was named a mid-season FSL All-Star before being promoted to Binghamton, meaning he jumped to Double-A in his first full season of professional baseball.
The future was very bright for Mazzoni following the 2012 season. However, 2013 was a season where the young righty had some run-ins with injuries. After his first start this past April, he was placed on the disabled list with elbow neuritis. Later, in July, he spent some time on the DL after experiencing some discomfort in his knee. Even with the injuries, 2013 was a solid season for Mazzoni.
Mazzoni has good control and brings three pitches to the ball park with him—fastball, slider, splitter. The fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95 mph. It doesn’t have much movement and he will have to rely on spotting it to be successful. He has a solid slider, but his splitter is still a pitch that needs work. The good news is, he can be very successful coming out of the bullpen with just a fastball and slider. If he can get the splitter to become another solid offering, he could be a dominant bullpen arm and potentially fill out a back of the rotation role.
When looking at Mazzoni’s stats, he’s put up some decent numbers through the years. His FIP in 2013 was very impressive, even though his ERA wasn’t. He put up excellent strike out numbers in 2013, posting just over 10 Ks per nine innings. He averages just over one hit per inning, which could be attributed to two things—he’s always around the strike zone, and his fastball does not have a ton of movement.
If Mazzoni is going to be successful coming out of the bullpen for the Mets in 2014, he will have to spot the fastball.
Believe it or not, having Mazzoni pitch a couple of months in Las Vegas would work wonders for his development. With the PCL being a “hitter’s league,” it forces the pitchers to try avoid leaving pitches in the strike zone. While many argue that the PCL is detrimental to a pitcher’s development, it’s actually exactly the type of conditioning they need in order to be successful in the major leagues. The way they pitch in the PCL is exactly how they will have to pitch when they get to the bigs—spot the fastball and keep hitter’s off balance with secondary offerings. Pitching in the PCL helps young pitchers learn the art of pitching.
If Mazzoni is guilty of anything it’s that he leaves the ball in the strike zone too much, which is why pitching in the PCL would be good for him. It will help him spot the fastball better. Mazzoni likes to attack hitters and stay ahead in the count. His pitching style is similar to that of another top pitcher in the Mets’ farm system—Rafael Montero.
Montero, another guy who throws a ton of strikes and attacks the hitters, had some shaky starts when he first got promoted to Las Vegas. He learned very quickly that he would have to spot his fastball and mix up his pitches to get hitters out. Montero eventually adjusted, and had stellar season in Vegas. His numbers actually ranked up there with some of the top pitching prospects in Triple-A.
Although Mazzoni would be a very solid bullpen addition to the 2014 New York Mets, I would like to see him get some fine tuning in Las Vegas before getting the call-up. His stuff translates well in a bullpen capacity, and I have no doubt that he could be successful in the major leagues if he skips over Triple-A. But for his long term development, the lessons he will learn in the PCL would better prepare him for the major leagues.
(Photo Credit: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)