Back in February of 2016, The Post ran a column by Kevin Kernan on Mets farmhand L.J. Mazzilli. Coming off a 2015 season that saw him begin the year on the suspended list, Mazzilli spoke on his prospects of the upcoming campaign.
“I’m excited for a clean slate,’’ Mazzilli told Kernan. “I’m looking forward to just putting my head down and try to bust that door down.”
Unfortunately for Mazzilli and the Mets, who selected him in the fourth round in 2013, the now 26-year-old struggled to find consistency between Binghamton and Las Vegas in 2016. Mazzilli got off to a slow start in April, before heating up in May and June, and cooling off through the rest of the season.
All told, Mazzilli has hit .271/.338/.382 with 21 home runs and 181 runs batted in through four minor league seasons.
The Mets’ front office has clearly disregarded any previous struggles. They knew the type of player they drafted and have rewarded him with a cameo in big league camp this spring. And this hasn’t been a one off kind of thing. Through Sunday, Mazzilli has appeared in six games with the Mets, who have been somewhat ravaged by the World Baseball Classic.
Mazzilli has made the most of his opportunity thus far, collecting four hits in 12 at bats, including a two-run home run in his first plate appearance on March 6. The former Connecticut Husky started for the Mets at third base on Sunday, and drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly.
At 26, Mazzilli will need to put up significantly better numbers than he has in previous years to be considered for a call up at some point in 2017. With other infielders such as Gavin Cecchini, Matt Reynolds, and Phillip Evans projected to open the season with Las Vegas, it remains to be seen if Mazzilli is ticketed for another season in Binghamton.
Still, baseball is all about maximizing opportunities, and L.J. Mazzilli has become an expert at it.