There was once a time when acquiring Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers would have been a move that inspired excitement and a great deal of hope in White Sox fans. Back in the winter of 2016, Mazara was the rumored headliner of the Rangers’ offered package for Chris Sale. What the Sox did get for Sale ended up being much better than anything the Rangers had to offer, both at the time and in overall MLB results since then as Yoan Moncada has turned into a star and Mazara has been well….. not good.
So you will be more than forgiven if the Sox acquiring Mazara Tuesday Night, in exchange for Steele Walker, is no longer an exciting move for you. Despite being a former top-25 prospect with huge power that many thought would blossom into a middle-of-the-lineup force, Mazara has struggled in the major leagues, never really improving much from his rookie numbers that were considered promising at the time, but when you post the same numbers for four seasons in a row you go from promising to frustrating very quickly. And that is what happened to Mazara and the Rangers, as it appears Texas was just done with waiting for the potential to deliver.
As you can tell by my headline, I don’t think much of this move – meaning I do not love it or hate it. It’s basically, as our friend and fellow FFUD Sox writer AJ put it, a giant shrug emoji of a trade.
It’s somewhat cliche to say that former top prospects who have disappointed early in their careers “still have potential,” but that cliche feels very applicable and appropriate in Mazara’s case. Like I said, his rookie year was promising with a .266/.320/.419 slash line and a 91 wRC+, but he has not improved significantly since. The last two years he has posted wRC+ of 95 and 94 respectfully, though 2019 did see home post a career high SLG% of .469.
Pretty much all of his offensive value comes against RHP, where for his career he’s barely inched above average (103 wRC+) but 2019 was one of the best of his career in that regard with an .844 OPS and 110 wRC+ against righties. Please don’t ask me about his numbers against LHP, and save yourself the trouble/stress and just don’t look them up. Just trust me when I tell you they are bad, and Mazara will be best used in a platoon.
Which is where the major question mark from this move comes in – is this all the White Sox plan to do to address right field? If it is, this could end up being something of a bad move – it’s the kind of flier they should’ve been taking on players the last three years rather than going into a 2020 campaign where they are supposedly trying to compete. However, if they don’t dust their hands and call it a day, and try to go out and find a genuine platoon partner for him, Mazara could prove to be something of a savvy addition. You can do a lot worse than a guy who produces like he does against RHP (which the Sox struggled with in 2019) as a platoon OF and bench piece. Asking him to do more than that could be a fool’s errand.
The cost is very reasonable, as while Walker was the #6 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s list for the Sox system, they’re the only publication with him that high. His ceiling has always been limited, and while Mazara has struggled to hit in MLB, Walker is just 14 months younger and struggled in high-A last year. While I am a fan of Walker and think he could be an MLB regular some day, his age and ceiling compared to Mazara’s make this is a very worthwhile move.
So while this is hardly an exciting move, it doesn’t strike me as one to be upset about in any way. The Sox appear to believe they see something in Mazara, both in the analytics and in his tools, that leads them to believe they can fix him. New hitting coach Frank Menechino is a preacher of a more patient approach and an analytics advocate, which is what made his hiring a good one and may provide a sliver of hope that the Sox can indeed help Mazara reach his ceiling. It’s not like a change of scenery for a mid-20’s former top prospect with a lot of power being a launching point has not happened before (hello, J.D. Martinez). I am hoping this won’t be the only move they make to address RF, because there are some good platoon options out there in free agency (I will take Domingo Santana, please) but until we know for sure what the Sox’ overall plans are for Mazara, this move strikes me as nothing more than an upside play that makes sense for the Sox to try.