Move over, Josh Willingham. There’s a new owner for “longest last name on the Twins 40-man roster,” and that belongs to freshly claimed outfielder Darin Mastroianni. While fans that memorized the spelling for “Mientkiewicz” years ago are working on getting this name down, we can discuss why the Twins got Mastroianni and what to expect from him.
Maestro (my first nickname idea so we can shorten his god-awful long name) is a righthanded hitter capable of playing all three outfield positions. He doesn’t hit for power, but he will draw a walk, and has quite a bit of speed, as evidenced by him going 34 for 44 in steal attempts between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He made his major league debut for the Blue Jays, appearing in only one game when new acquisition Kelly Johnson forgot his passport (thanks for finding that, Twinkie Town).
Upon hearing that the Twins claimed Mastroianni from the Jays, I instantly started thinking of him as little more than Triple-A filler. After all, the Twins will already have Willingham, Span, Revere, and Plouffe as outfielders on the active roster, and it’s possible that Rene Tosoni will join them. I feel that Mastroianni will be a stopgap that prevents the Twins from having to rush Joe Benson back up to the major leagues. Remember, while Benson made his major-league debut last season, he skipped Rochester in order to do so. I’m sure that if any of the outfielders get hurt in the first half of the season, this will mean that Mastroianni, not Benson, will be called up first. Even if he does see time in the majors this year, I imagine Mastroianni will stay on the bench, as I bet Plouffe and Tosoni will be given the first chance to move into a corner outfield spot. If Span gets hurt, then it’ll likely be Revere shifting over to center.
On the flip side, the Twins had to remove someone from their 40-man roster and they chose reliever Esmerling Vasquez. He did not appear in a single game for the Twins, as he was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks just before the end of last season. He was a hard-throwing righty with little control over where his mid-90s fastballs were going, and he was fitting into the new team philosophy of amassing as many relievers as possible that threw gas.
While it probably doesn’t make any difference in the long run, it bothers me a little bit that the Twins designated Vasquez for assignment as opposed to someone like Matt Maloney, who really only profiles as this year’s Chuck James. I figured the Twins should hope to catch lightning in a bottle in Vasquez, as I imagine his higher velocity fastball giving him a better chance of surviving as a bullpen option this season. But, whatever. Like I said before, this probably won’t make a difference come July.