Valentino Pascucci Wins Triple-A Home Run Derby

By Matt Musico

While Prince Fielder was busy winning the 2012 MLB Home Run Derby against Jose Bautista in Kansas City, Valentino Pascucci was doing the same in Buffalo, as he captured the Triple-A derby crown, beating out Dan Johnson in the final round. Like the Major Leaguers, both Johnson and Pascucci hit some moon shots that excited a crowd of just over 17,000 at Coca-Cola Field.

Johnson has slugged 21 home runs so far this season, more than Pascucci’s 13, but the 33-year-old’s 247 career bombs in the Minor Leagues make him a prolific slugger down on the junior circuit. His career total currently ranks second among active players, only trailing Mike Hessman‘s 356 homers, but he couldn’t hang with Pascucci in the derby last night. After Johnson and Pascucci both survived a three-hitter playoff to advance to the semi-finals, they found their groove.

It was first Johnson’s turn, as the left-hander continually pelted the party deck in right field with baseball after baseball. Meanwhile, once Pascucci got up, the right-handed hitter made the left field wall look tiny, as he cleared the net beyond the wall by about 60 feet

regularly, with seven of his bombs in the semi’s reaching the street outside of the stadium that leads to the highway towards downtown Buffalo.

The 33-year-old career minor leaguer has only seen action twice in the Majors, once in 2004 with the Expos (32 games), then not again until he appeared in 10 games for the Mets last season. In 86 games for Triple-A Buffalo in 2012, he’s put together only a .229 average, but his on-base percentage is a healthy .370, and he’s slugging at a .411 clip. He’s the biggest power threat for Wally Backman and the Bisons, as he leads the squad with 13 home runs and 51 RBI.

This begs to ask the question, why hasn’t he gotten his chance at the big league level with the Mets yet? He’s right-handed and has power, and can play either first base or the outfield to give the Mets’ left-handed hitters a break when there is a tough southpaw on the mound. Rumors around Major League Baseball point to the Amazins looking to acquire one or two veteran relievers, but they have also been inquiring about some right-handed hitting catchers, with Ramon Hernandez grabbing the headlines recently. If Sandy Alderson can’t add a veteran right-hander with power, he should give Pascucci a shot.

Having both Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner on the bench is great, but as hitters, they are very similar in style. Turner seems to be more versatile in the field than Cedeno, and he’s a much better hitter with runners in scoring position (.409 BA vs. .133 BA) and in late game situations (.267 BA vs .143 BA), so I would much rather give Pascucci a chance in the Majors instead of holding onto Cedeno. That would allow Turner to play second against tough lefties and Pascucci can either play first for Ike Davis, or the outfield in place of Lucas Duda. He’s hitting .271/.391/.486 in his minor league career and while standing at 6’6″ and 255 lbs., he can at least instill a little fear into opposing pitchers if the Mets can’t acquire another veteran bat and/or Jason Bay doesn’t fill the team’s current void.