Not every prospect gets a full season in full-season ball starting at age 17, and even among those who do, not many do as well as Nomar Mazara.
The Rangers signed Mazara in 2011, giving the 16-year-old a record-breaking bonus of $4.95 million dollars. He spent 2012 with the rookie-level Arizona team, playing with other notable prospects such as Joey Gallo, Nick Williams, and Ronald Guzman. In his first season of professional ball, Mazara hit a more respectable .264/.383/.448 as the youngest member of the team. In his first full season, Mazara was again the youngest person on his team, and while his line of .236/.310/.382 doesn't necessarily impress, it was far from the worst average on the team.
Mechanically, Mazara has a swing that promises good things as he continues to gain professional experience. His quick hands and lack of an exaggerated load mean that he can be shorter to the ball, letting it travel farther into the zone before swinging. While his 2013 strikeout rate of 25.9% isn't ideal, at least starting 2014 against the same level of pitching he saw the year before could give him a chance to develop his plate discipline. Mazara hit 13 homers in 126 games, as well as 23 doubles. And, as he matures, some of those doubles might start flying out of the park. One worry is the barely-average walk rate of 8.7%, though that isn't due to a lot of quick strikeouts. He has the ability to work a deep count, and then foul pitches off, and as plate awareness develops, some of those seven- to ten-pitch strikeouts could turn into seven- to ten-pitch walks, or doubles. A lot of scouts see above-average power potential in Mazara, and with his swing and pitch recognition skills improving, he should be able to put that potential into reality, as well as both cutting the strikeouts and adding walks. If he can put all his tools to work, he could be a very balanced, and very dangerous, hitter in the future.
Defensively, Mazara's upside is that of an average right fielder. He's got the arm strength to be effective, and while he's still growing into his athleticism, he shouldn't be a hindrance. His calling card will most likely be his offense, but the speed he already possesses and strength that should develop as he matures gives him the possibility of not undermining his bat as a defensive liability. Though their developmental tracks are unsimilar, a major league comparison could be to former Rangers' outfielder Nelson Cruz, who until last year was an above-average power hitter and an average defender.
Due to his youth, Mazara has longer to develop less than some prospects. He'll probably start 2014 returning to Hickory, a level-repeater who will still be below the average age of that league. It's more than likely that he'll see a promotion to Myrtle Beach before the end of 2014, though whether or not he starts 2015 there possibly depends on when that promotion happens. 2016 is the earliest one could expect to see Mazara in the major leagues, and any regular time isn't likely to come until 2017. While he may not have the flashy tools and fascinating traits of a Joey Gallo or Jorge Alfaro, Mazara's talents make him a more solid bet than most.
Kate Morrison is a recent Baylor graduate currently working as a freelance writer. She likes minor league ballparks, music and the nickname 'Roogie.' That last one will be explained in due time. You can follow her on Twitter at @unlikelyfanatic.