JUSTIN MASTERSON, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: March 22, 1985
Drafted: 2nd Round, 71st Overall, 2006 (Red Sox)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
College: San Diego State University
Agent: Randy Rowley
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Masterson was a very effective starter for Cleveland from 2011-13. He relied heavily on a sinker that generally sat around 92-93 mph. Masterson also threw a slider and, occasionally, a change. He was very good at keeping the ball on the ground, with a groundball percentage that ranged from 55% to 60%. Injuries intervened in 2014, initially in the form of a knee problem that impacted his velocity, and then in the form of shoulder tendinitis. Masterson pitched badly for three different teams in 2014-15, with velocity about three mph below his previous norms. He eventually got released and had shoulder surgery. He’s had an extreme platoon split, with career OPS marks of .618 against right-handed hitters and .800 against left-handed hitters. About a week and a half into the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Masterson to a minor league contract.
Masterson dominated in his debut. Oddly for an early-round, college draftee, he pitched strictly in relief.
The Red Sox jumped Masterson up to high A and he pitched reasonably well as a starter in the high-offense California League. He gave up only four HRs. The Sox moved him up to AA for ten starts and he pitched better, with a much higher K rate.
Boston sent Masterson back to AA to open the season, but called him up for spot starts in April and May, and then mostly for good in early June. He made nine starts and 27 relief appearances in the majors. Masterson had some control problems with the Sox, but he held opponents to a .216 average.
Boston continued to use Masterson mainly in relief, although he made six starts with them. At the trade deadline, Masterson went to Cleveland in the deal for Victor Martinez. The Indians moved Masterson to the rotation. He didn’t pitch especially well for either team, with control especially being a problem as a starter. On the plus side, he maintained good K rates.
Masterson stayed in the Indians’ rotation nearly all year. His pitching was only decent, but he ate up a lot of innings.
Masterson had an outstanding year for the Indians, holding opponents to a .667 OPS.
Masterson didn’t have the success of the previous year, although his 4.15 xFIP shows he was probably better than indicated by his ERA. The main differences from the previous year were a higher walk rate and an increase in gopher balls, from 11 in slightly fewer innings to 18.
Masterson bounced back to his 2011 level, or better given the much higher K rate. He missed several weeks late in the season with a rib cage injury.
Right knee inflammation hampered Masterson off and on, and it seemed to affect his throwing. His velocity dropped by three MPH and his effectiveness went with it. Opponents hit 279/386/424 against him and he struggled to throw strikes. Cleveland sent him to St. Louis at the deadline and he was even worse with the Cards, allowing a 295/382/496 batting line. Eventually he was removed from the rotation. The timing couldn’t have been much worse, as it was Masterson’s walk year. After the season he signed a one-year contact with Boston.
Masterson’s problems continued and he added to them with right shoulder tendinitis, which caused him to miss six weeks. With his velocity still down and opponents posting an .870 OPS against him, the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen and, in August, released him. He had arthroscopic surgery in September.
The Pirates went into 2016 with a rotation that was significantly weaker than the one they had at the end of 2015, as well as with several shaky spots in the bullpen. It took little time for the pitching problems to start appearing. Possibly due to the problems they were experiencing, the Pirates signed Masterson to a minor league contract in mid-April. They made it clear they considered Masterson a potential option for the major leagues, but he never showed any sign in AAA of being ready. He made five starts and 25 relief appearances, and struggled throughout. Opponents hit .286 against him and he had trouble throwing strikes, leading to an opponents’ OBP of .392.
Masterson was an experiment that didn’t work out. He’ll become a free agent after the season.
2016: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $510,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 4/24/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: 2016
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 4/24/2008
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2008)
MLB Service Time: 7.073
|June 6, 2006: Drafted in the 2nd round, 71st overall, by the Boston Red Sox; signed on June 8.
April 24, 2008: Contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox.
July 31, 2009: Traded by the Boston Red Sox with Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to the Cleveland Indians for Victor Martinez.
July 30, 2014: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the St. Louis Cardinals for James Ramsey.
November 4, 2014: Became a free agent.
December 11, 2014: Signed by the Boston Red Sox as a league free agent.
August 19, 2015: Released by the Boston Red Sox.
April 14, 2016: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.