Before last night’s game, after the lineup came out, I found myself defending Miles Mastrobuoni, who was starting at third base.
Set aside the injuries to Nick Madrigal and Jeimer Candelario, and it just felt like an appropriate match-up for Mastrobuoni, who handles upper-third velocity pretty well. I didn’t necessarily expect him to have three hits in the game and just barely miss a homer, but it was one of those times when David Ross was getting crap for a lineup decision and I just didn’t agree.
That, in turn, led me to a completely random post today on Mastrobuoni, who has hardly been a star for the Cubs this year, but deserves at least a golf clap. A high-five even.
Mastrobuoni, 27, came to the Cubs in a trade last offseason when the Rays’ overcrowded 40-man (and infield group) dictated a move. So the Cubs swapped out low-level (non-40-man) relief prospect Alfredo Zarraga, who has been pretty good for the Rays at High-A this year (though he’s about to be 23, and you really have to accelerate from there if you’re going to stay on the radar as a relief-only guy). In Mastrobuoni, the Cubs were looking to find a guy who was versatile, had a little upside, and could be freely optioned up and down from Iowa. They got that guy, even if his overall numbers were sunk by early-season struggles.
With his big night last night, Mastrobuoni increased his season line to … .226/.305/.302/70 wRC+, just passing Eric Hosmer’s 67 wRC+. So, yeah. Overall, not great.
But I do think it’s notable that Mastrobuoni hasn’t exactly had regular playing time, has an xwOBA 20 points higher than his actual wOBA, hit .295/.448/.473/141 wRC+ in his time at Triple-A, and has been pretty passable in an extremely limited role since the end of May.
That is to say, going back to June 1, Mastrobuoni is hitting .288/.333/.390/99 wRC+. For a guy who gets sporadic time and has a lot of pinch-hitting duty, being a league average bat is pretty darn good. Throw in the defensive versatility and the speed, and that’s just a perfectly solid player to have available at the end of the bench.
And that’s really all this is: a note to say that Mastrobuoni is a perfectly solid player to have available at the end of the Cubs’ bench.
His optionability is a big assist, too, and could be a huge part of why he should survive the offseason on the 40-man roster. As an up-down guy next year, depth at a bunch of spots and bench possibility, he’s fine.
I don’t think he ever breaks out into being a big league regular, even as he’s crushed Triple-A, but I do think it’s possible he has a nice multi-year stretch as a solid bench guy. I’m glad the Cubs have him, despite the starkly negative impression he made on fans in the first two months of the season with his anemic production.