RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 27, 1986
Drafted: 3rd round, 101st overall, 2005 (Athletics)
How Acquired: Trade (from Royals) with Clint Robinson for Luis Rico and Luis Sanchez
High School: Rutherford (NJ) HS
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|When Mazzaro was drafted, he featured an upper-80s to low-90s fastball with good movement and a potentially good curve. He moved quickly through Oakland’s system, but never got established in the majors despite significant opportunities over four years. He also hasn’t pitched very well in AAA the last several years. Mazzaro throws harder now than he did when he became a pro, averaging about 92 and topping out at 94-95. His main secondary pitch is a slider and he throws an occasional change. He’s gradually become more of a groundball pitcher, but generally has been hit hard in the majors and has not had high K rates. As a major leaguer he’s had trouble with left-handed batters, who’ve posted an OPS of .884 against him compared to .768 by right-handed batters. The Pirates acquired him, along with Clint Robinson, when the Royals designated them both for assignment to clear roster space after the 2012 season. The Pirates only gave up two pitchers who’d been in the Dominican Summer League, neither of whom was considered a top prospect.
Mazzaro signed too late to play in 2005, then the A’s started him off aggressively in full season ball. He put up mediocre numbers in 24 starts, but considering his experience level that’s not surprising.
Mazzaro got another tough assignment, making 28 starts in the hitting-happy California League. His home park inflated HR totals, so the fact that he allowed 13 in 153.1 IP wasn’t bad.
Mazzaro had a big year, winning the Texas League ERA title and reaching AAA at age 21. Baseball America ranked him the 8th best prospect in Oakland’s system after the season.
Mazzaro got off to a strong start in AAA and the A’s called him up at the beginning of June. He stayed in their rotation through the end of August and mostly struggled. His groundball rate was only 39.1% and he gave up a lot of line drives, leading to a BABIP of .350. He also had trouble with gopher balls, allowing a dozen.
The A’s sent Mazzaro back to AAA to start the season and he pitched well there, posting his career high K rate. The team called him up for one start in early May and then for good late in the month. He ended up making 18 starts and six relief appearances. He continued to have trouble with HRs, allowing 19. After the season, the A’s traded Mazzaro to the Royals for David DeJesus.
Mazzaro spent most of the season in the AAA rotation and didn’t pitch especially well there. He had control problems and opponents hit .286 against him. The Royals brought him up for several brief stints, which included a not-so-memorable outing against the Indians in which he allowed 14 earned runs in two and a third innings.
Mazzaro split the season between AAA and the majors, serving as a swing man at both levels. The Royals brought him to the majors briefly several times, then brought him up to stay in September. In AAA, he pitched much better in relief, with a 1.80 ERA, as opposed to 4.40 starting, and much better peripherals, including more than a strikeout per inning. In the majors he was also better as a reliever, but still didn’t pitch well, walking the same number he fanned. He continued to struggle with a very high BABIP, in this case .354. He got his groundball rate up to 45.9%, but he had a very high line drive rate of 27.4%.
Mazzaro was out of options when the Pirates acquired him, but it didn’t entirely matter in the end because they outrighted him to AAA when they signed Francisco Liriano. Mazzaro pitched very well in spring training and continued to do so in his first few AAA outings, so when the team had a severe need for relief innings in mid-April, they called him up. He spent the rest of the season in the majors, pitching in middle relief and playing a key role for a team that had a large number of close games. Mazzaro repeatedly kept games close until the Pirates were able to pull the game out. His success in doing this resulted in eight wins; in this case, unlike most, relief wins really are a good indicator of how the reliever pitched. Mazzaro threw mostly two-seam fastballs and sliders, and his fastball velocity increased to an average of 93. He had no meaningful platoon split. Mazzaro had a career-high 52.2% groundball rate, but his batting average on balls in play (.281) wasn’t especially low, unlike some Pirate pitchers. Still, his xFIP of 4.00 indicates he may be due for some regression.
Mazzaro was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time after the 2013 season and there was some speculation that the Pirates might non-tender him. That didn’t happen, though, as the team signed him for $950,000. He went into spring training in competition for a bullpen spot, but the Pirates had Jeanmar Gomez, who proved useful as a spot starter in 2013; Bryan Morris, who had a much better arm and had a very strong spring; and Stolmy Pimentel, one of the team’s better pitching prospects who was out of options. Mazzaro was the odd man out and got designated for assignment at the end of the spring. Surprisingly, the Pirates were unable to trade him and he cleared waivers. He accepted outright assignment to AAA rather than give up his salary.
The Pirates added Mazzaro back to the roster in early May after Pimentel got injured. He didn’t pitch exceptionally well, though, and they designated him for assignment in late May when they needed to add Brandon Cumpton as a starter. They evidently decided that Jared Hughes, who could have been optioned, was substantially better than Mazzaro. Mazzaro cleared waivers and again was assigned to AAA. He had a good ERA there and frequently was the subject of frenzied fan pleas to be called up, but his overall numbers show that he wasn’t the answer to the Pirates’ need for another late-inning reliever, as opposed to a long reliever. His walk rate was a little high and he didn’t miss many bats. He also was not a groundball pitcher. Mazzaro struggled a little over the last couple months of the season, allowing hitters to put up an OPS of .815 in July and .796 in August. The Pirates did not bring him back up in September.
With Hughes and the very similar Gomez in Pittsburgh — and the former having a very good 2014 season — and with their continuing efforts to develop Pimentel — who could potentially be either a late-inning reliever or a starter — the Pirates had no pressing need for Mazzaro. That’s unlikely to change, as they effectively indicated when they failed to bring him up in September. He’s eligible for minor league free agency and will almost certainly be elsewhere in 2015.
2013: Major League Minimum
|Signing Bonus: $380,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 6/2/2009
MiLB FA Eligible: Eligible
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 6/2/09
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2010, 2011, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 3.021
|June 7, 2005: Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 3rd round, 101st overall pick; signed on September 8.
June 2, 2009: Contract purchased by the Oakland Athletics.
November 10, 2010: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Justin Marks to the Kansas City Royals for David DeJesus.
November 20, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals.
November 28, 2012: Traded by the Kansas City Royals with Clint Robinson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Luis Rico and Luis Sanchez.
February 8, 2013: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 16, 2013: Recalled by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
March 29, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; accepted assignment to AAA on April 10.
May 3, 2014: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
May 26, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; cleared waivers and accepted assignment to AAA on June 5.