Back in the Summer of 2011, when the Texas Rangers were in the midst of what would become known as The Year of the Napoli, a certain Dominican 16-year-old with a sweet left-handed power stroke was being snatched up for a huge signing bonus.
Nomar Mazara: Rise to Double-A
On July 11, 2011 Nomar Mazara put pen to paper inking his record $5 million signing bonus. An international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Mazara was heavily scouted by multiple big league teams before being whisked away by the Rangers.
So highly regarded was Mazara that former Ranger manager Ron Washington projected that Mazara might even mature into a left-handed version of Juan Gonzalez – high praise for a kid the same age as many high school sophomores.
Mazara’s first foray into professional baseball was in the 2012 Arizona League, where he more than held his own as a 17-year-old, putting up the triple-slash line of .264/.383/.448 with six home runs and 39 RBI. An impressive debut considering that Mazara’s six home runs tied him for the fourth-most in the short-season rookie league. To start the 2013 season, Mazara would be promoted the South Atlantic League, where he would be challenged by Class A pitching.
While with the Hickory Crawdads, Mazara flashed the power potential that had become his calling card, launching 13 home runs over his 506 plate appearances. His 13 round trippers were well behind teammates Joey Gallo (38) and Ryan Rua (29) but were still enough for the second-most amongst teenagers in the league.
Pitch selection, often the bane of the young power hitter, proved a challenge for Mazara, as he whiffed 131 times, paving the way for a paltry .236/.310/.382 slash line. Regardless, for a player almost four years younger than the league average, his season wasn’t too bad. Class A is always a major test for young prospects, and in 2014 Mazara would prove that he was ready for the next level.
Once again a Crawdad to start the season, Mazara showed increased patience at the plate over his 461 plate appearances in Hickory. His strikeouts were still a touch high, at 99, but his much-improved pitch selectivity allowed him to square-up pitches better, leading to 19 home runs and 73 RBI.
He put up a very comparable line to his first year in pro ball, going .264/.358/.470, while facing improved opposition. And, for the first time in his career, he wouldn’t have to wait to for a new season to earn a promotion. In early August, Mazara was promoted to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders, of the Texas League.
Over five years younger than the average Texas Leaguer, Mazara hit .306 with three home runs and 16 RBI over his 97 plate appearances. Although his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 22:9 is somewhat troubling, you’ve got to understand that the transition to Double-A pitching is considered the toughest for a prospect, and is only overshadowed by the jump to the big leagues.
Long and lean, the 6’4″ Mazara is quick to the ball, using his height well to create a slight upward plane with his swing. The result is plenty of backspin on the ball, which turns mistake pitches into home runs. Like all other power hitters, Mazara’s contact rate will make or break him.
Although Mazara lacks Gallo-esque power – just like every other human on the planet – and he is nowhere near as fast as Nick Williams, his power potential could put him in the 30-35 range per season if he can continue to improve his pitch selection while maintaining a high contact rate.
Ranked as the Texas Rangers’ 4th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the 2015 season, it will be fun to see what Mazara can do when given a full year to play every day against Double-A competition.