The Texas Rangers placed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo on the disabled list with a strained calf. Choo is expected to be gone for at least a month. Fortunately the Rangers have an exciting replacement available: phenom Nomar Mazara. Here's a look at what to expect.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-4 WT: 195 DOB: April 26, 1995
2012: Grade C+; 2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B-; 2015: Grade B+
Nomar Mazara’s goals for 2015: stay healthy, improve against left-handed pitching, tap the raw power more often, keep the zone under control against advanced minor league pitching, and sharpen up the outfield glove. He accomplished almost everything. He stayed healthy obviously. His defense was rough a few years ago but is actually quite solid at this point; he shows good range despite lack of pure running speed and his throwing arm is strong and accurate. He maintained command of the strike zone and had no problems in Double-A and Triple-A. On the other hand, he didn’t get to his raw power any more often, his ISO declining about 50 points. He still has occasional problems against left-handed pitching, hitting just .188 with .188 SLG against lefties in Triple-A, granted an admittedly small sample size. On the third hand, his reputation for hard work and positive makeup grew stronger. In short, Mazara had another good year and has made substantial progress putting his game together. He needs additional Triple-A time to work on the platoon issue but the balance of tools, skills, performance, makeup and youth is enough to boost him up to Grade A- in my view.
Mazara was off to a hot start in Triple-A, going 6-for-12 in his first three games for Round Rock with one strikeout, one walk, four RBI, and a home run. He was hot in spring training, hitting .375/.394/.500 in 32 at-bats.
For all the good numbers and his strong performance in the high minors last year, the sabermetric projection systems aren't ultra-impressed. Steamer projects him at .255/.312/.389, ZiPS at .261/.316/.425. Baseball Prospectus with PECOTA also lacks enthusiasm, projecting .238/.300/.384.
I'm generally a sabermetrics guy but some of those particular projections look too low. The ZiPS numbers seem realistic but Steamer and PECOTA seem too negative to me. Based on in-person looks I think Mazara has enough bat speed, all field power, mechanical swing consistency, and knowledge of the strike zone to certainly exceed those conservative projections.
No, we shouldn't expect him to hit .300+ right now, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't hit .260-.270 with moderate power, similar to the ZiPS numbers if not somewhat better, and .260-.270 with moderate power at age 20 projects extremely well down the line.
In the short run there will likely be up-and-downs, especially if he faces too many tough lefties, but in the long run Mazara should become a lineup mainstay, hitting for average and power and providing quality defense.