(Editor's Note: Everyone welcome new Minor League Ball staffer Clinton Riddle)
For those of you who have followed international prospects in the last few years, Nomar Mazara is certainly no secret. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for a then-record $4.95 million based, from indications at the time, almost solely on his power potential.
Given the fact that Mazara’s trainer, Ivan Noboa, was so guarded about allowing MLB scouts to see his young protégé in live games, it stands to reason that there were those in the scouting community who had concerns. The Rangers had followed Mazara since two years prior, however, and were more than ready to take a chance on him.
In his first year in the Rangers organization, Mazara was assigned to the rookie-level team in the Arizona League. In 54 games, he popped six homers and 13 doubles while driving in 39 and scoring another 40, so the power was obvious. He also struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances (70 in 243 PA), which was a healthy mix of his swing-for-the-fences mentality and his lack of polish.
He went to Low-A Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League the next year as an 18 year-old, batting .236/.310/.382 against much older competition. Again, the power showed up: Mazara had 13 homers, 23 doubles and 62 RBI in 126 games, while going down on strikes 25.9% of the time. Then it was on to Double-A Frisco at the tender age of 19, driving in 16 runs in 24 games against players who were on average five years older than him.
Now, then…fast forward to 2016, and Mazara is a Major-Leaguer, having made his debut for the Rangers on April 10th this year, at twenty years old. Thus far, it doesn’t appear he’ll be going back down the chain anytime soon.
Mazara has an even stance at the plate and a good, sturdy base. His hands are quick enough for ML fastballs, though he appears to sweep the zone often. He shows an excellent eye, but not so much in terms of drawing walks (though he’ll get his share): Mazara is a pretty good "bad-ball hitter".
He demonstrated as much in his ML debut; his very first hit in the big leagues was on a pitch that was nearly in the batter’s box on the other side of the plate. His next hit was off a low and middle-shin offering. Indeed, his O-Swing Percentage (pitches outside the strike zone at which he has swung) stands currently at 31.6%, with his out-of-zone contact rate at 69%. From the look of things it may actually serve him well.
Yes, Mazara has considerable power. Much of what he gets in the air just seems to keep on going; 18.9% of the fly balls hit by Mazara have cleared the fence, this year. His 491-foot moon-shot against Angels lefty Hector Santiago demonstrates just how much clout Mazara possesses. As he is now, Mazara has a 20+ HR bat.
At 6’4", 190, there’s a lot of projection left there, as well. He could easily turn into a major run producer in the Rangers’ lineup. Of course, anticipating that pitchers will adjust and start getting him to chase more often, I could see him leveling out at .265-.270, with 28-30 homers and 90+ RBI annually.
In the field, Mazara has a great arm and just enough range to be a solid-average right-fielder. He has very little speed on the bases, but he covers enough ground to make all the plays he should, and on occasion will get to a ball thought well out of his zone. He takes good routes to the ball and should only improve them over time.
As it stands now, Mazara could become a near-perennial All-Star candidate. His floor may put him in the 20+ HR, 70 RBI area, but over a full season I would expect him normally to be closer to the former. I do think it’s possible that he will at least come close to the 40-homer mark, maybe several times. It’s hard to say which way a rookie will go, but the tools are there.