Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Hampshire's Mastroianni is a Brett Gardner clone

TRENTON – Thunder fans, you remember Brett Gardner, right? The guy who, parking himself in New York’s lineup, spent parts of the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Waterfront Park burning up the basepaths and driving opposing pitchers crazy?

Well, it appears he has a clone. Only this time, much to the dismay of Thunder fans, he’s playing for New Hampshire.

An inch shorter and slightly heavier, Mastroianni’s performance at the top of the Fisher Cats’ lineup has surpassed the totals Brett the Jet put up with Trenton a few summers ago.

Toronto’s 16th-round selection from the 2007 draft led the Eastern League in stolen bases (46), finished tied for the lead in hits (158) and came in second in on-base percentage (.390), runs scored (101) and walks (77). His .301 batting average was good for fifth in the circuit.

“He’s done a great job. He’s probably the best leadoff guy in this league,” New Hampshire manager Luis Rivera said last month, during the teams’ final regular-season showdown. “If he goes, we go. That’s how it is. He’s done a great job. He’s getting on base and he’s scoring a lot of runs.”

Moreover, just like most of his teammates, Mastroianni’s done a great deal of damage against the Thunder during the regular year. He’s hitting at a fantastic .318/.396/.798 clip, with five doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs thrown in. He’s also swiped five bases in six attempts, with the only failure coming on an overslide of third base.

“He’s always on base,” teammate Eric Thames says, restating what the statistics make plainly obvious. “It’s seems like every time you look up he’s on first base. He’ll steal second, steal third. He’s just a big part of this team.”

After his first full season in pro ball, spent with Low-A Lansing of the Midwest League, it would have been hard to predict this kind of success for Mastroianni. He hit just .228 with the Lugnuts, and as a result saw his playing time diminish over the second half of the season.

Tommy John surgery that offseason, plus a change in his approach at the plate, helped him get back on the path to becoming the offensive monster he’s been all season long.

“I just really focused on getting on top of the ball a little bit more and hitting line drives, really be shorter to the ball” Mastroianni explained. “Obviously I’ve still got things to work on. You’re never done, but it’s helped.”

The idea that Mastroianni could get even better should frighten the Thunder just a bit, because with the way he’s performed this, anything better could prove to a death blow for Trenton’s championship chances.

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