Brooklyn, New York — Toss the hype aside. LJ Mazzilli has quietly, steadily put together an excellent professional debut season.
After the Mets drafted him out of UConn in the fourth round, the son of former Met Lee Mazzilli, was rushed into the spotlight of a media blitz.
When the dust settled, Mazzilli was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones of the short-season New York Penn League. The second baseman started strong out of the gate. In June he had ten hits and five walks through twelve games, with twelve multi-hit games, then tore his way through July hitting .343 with 47 hits. He currently has a twelve-game road hitting streak, the second longest in the league.
Hitting mostly third in the lineup (and most often behind shortstop Gavin Cecchini), his consistency leaves little doubt that he will move at a healthy pace through the system.
Over several games this season, I’ve seen Mazzilli’s skill set in action. He’s got few bad habits, though he can chase balls out of the zone. He consistently keeps his hands low and his stance solid through the swing, maintaining good balance.
In a recent game against the Hudson Valley Renegades, facing starting pitcher Chris Kirsch, Mazzilli stayed patient and displayed excellent pitch recognition in his first at-bat. He worked a 2-1 count, getting a hit to centerfield off a pitch low in the zone. It was a perfect example of everything Mazzilli does right. He stayed centered, distributed his weight well, and kept his body straight, with a short, easy swing.
Defensively he is loose and athletic, taking his time with difficult and routine plays. His hands look soft when handling the ball. His patient but gritty style also shows in how he fields his position.
Later, Mazzilli struck out looking at a pitch on the outside corner. He didn’t like the call, and calmly questioned the umpire. But it’s these pitches he’s learning to recognize more often in the pros, as he develops a more balanced approach, leveling his aggressiveness, and recognizing his pitch. In another at-bat he worked a 2-0 count, getting his second hit of the night.
His bat is what makes him most valuable to the Mets. His swing is compact, smooth, and simple. He keeps his hands inside, and doesn’t complicate his approach. He plays solid defense, and has good speed, but it’s ability to make consistent, hard contact, and potential to develop more gap power that makes him a possible impact-type player in the major leagues.
In the final month of short-season play, it will be interesting to see whether Mazzilli keeps that impressive pace. His noted work ethic and baseball smarts elevate him beyond his shortcomings. He has tools, but with those two qualities, he makes even more of them. He’s proven that in just a few weeks.