White Sox Acquire Good Fit in Mazara, Rangers Farm System Gets Deeper

It’s not the sort of splashy, high-profile move that would muffle some of the White Sox fan base’s simmering impatience, but acquiring two years of 24-year-old right fielder Nomar Mazara was a sensible, bird-in-the-hand trade for Rick Hahn and company. Up until this point, Mazara hasn’t had the kind of career many in baseball or baseball media (myself included) anticipated when he was an 18-year-old clubbing on Double-A pitching late in 2014. He’s produced just 1.7 WAR combined during his first four years in the big leagues, reaching base just a shade below league average (his biggest issue) without hitting for quite enough power to counterbalance it.

But he’s still a good fit for Chicago. The White Sox needed a corner outfield bat, and they needed it to be left-handed. Daniel Palka, a Mazara caricature, was jettisoned off the 40-man last month, Luis Alexander Basabe, a switch-hitter, is coming off a bad year, Blake Rutherford has a low-ball swing at a time when pitchers are attacking the top of the zone, Leury García, who also bats switch, is more of a versatile utility type than a true starting outfielder, and everyone else swings right-handed. Mazara has a .271/.337/.462 career line against righties, good for a 103 career wRC+, a number that has climbed in three consecutive seasons, as has Mazara’s Hard Hit % and Barrel % (the last one according to BaseballSavant). This is a 24-year-old (Mazara will turn 25 in April) who’s still getting better at the thing he’ll most often be called upon to do for the White Sox next year.

Nomar Mazara’s Progression
Year/Stat wRC+ vs RHP Hard Hit% Barrel% (Savant)
2017 97 32.6% 6.5%
2018 104 37.5% 8.5%
2019 110 45.3% 10.7%

We’ve seen single-frame glimpses of elite physical ability from Mazara, like his 500 foot homer off of Reynaldo López, and perhaps at his age there’s some hope that he can continue to improve, though it’s more likely this is a perfectly fine corner platoon bat.

There’s undoubtedly some ugly positional redundancy on the White Sox roster. Zack Collins, Eloy Jiménez, Micker Adolfo, Jose Abreu, and now Mazara all are lumbering, below-average defenders who are arguably better-suited for DH duty. You could say the same for James McCann and Yermin Mercedes, who are two of a whopping five catchers currently on the 40-man, depth the White Sox may seek to trade from. The speedy García and Adam Engel should end up playing a lot late in games if the Sox are winning.

Outfielder Steele Walker, the White Sox 2018 second round pick (taken 46th overall for a $2 million bonus), is headed to Texas for Mazara. He spent 2019 in A-ball as a 22 and 23-year-old and slashed .284/.361/.451 in his first full pro season against pitching that’s a little bit better than what he saw in the Big 12. He’s a muscular, 5-foot-11 stick of dynamite with plus raw power that he likely won’t fully get to in games (from a home run production standpoint, anyway) because of how the swing works. He can turn on balls in, but anything away from the short-levered Walker he tends to either punch somewhere or roll over top of. He does hit the ball hard (43% of his balls in play last year were hit over 95 mph, according to a source) but he can be pitched to in a way that limits the damage he does.

In many ways, Walker projects to be a player quite similar to the one Mazara has become. His platoon splits have been rather significant to this point and his in-game power production is likely to end up beneath his raw (albeit for reasons different than Mazara’s, which have to do with pitch selection more than swing plane issues), though Walker is a superior defender. He can play a passable center field, though whatever big league roster he ends up on will probably have a superior one who pushes him to a corner. He’s only a little less than a year and a half younger than Mazara, but of course the Rangers get six years of Walker for two of Mazara, which makes sense for them given their likely competitive timeline. The same goes for the White Sox short-term motivations, as Mazara can help them now while Walker was on pace to help them in 2021 or 2022 and is one of several upper-level outfield prospects in the system.

We’ll likely keep the 40+ FV grade we have on Walker when the Rangers list publishes later this offseason, so you can get a general idea of where he’ll fall in the org by looking at the prospect list as it was constituted at the end of the summer. Texas’ system is so deep that Walker will likely be ranked in the 13-to-25 range on that list, whereas he was in the 9-to-11 range on the Sox rundown, which is why we continue to encourage readers to focus on the FV rather than the ordinal ranking.

We hoped you liked reading White Sox Acquire Good Fit in Mazara, Rangers Farm System Gets Deeper by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

I like this if it forecloses the possibility of the WSox signing mediocre FA’s like Castellanos. Plus, Mazara is 24yo, so I think it’s not unreasonable that the WSox use his improvement in hard-hit rate and barrels to outperform, say, Kole Calhoun or Corey Dickerson.

I hope this also means that the WSox are focused on finding 4+ win players in FA even if that means waiting until next year to go after Betts, Springer, Yates, or Bauer after whiffing on Zach Wheeler this year. Ryu is still out there, so maybe he’s still a possibility for the WSox.

Chris K
Member
Chris K

I dunno, I’d much rather have Calhoun, who possibly could’ve been had on a one year, seven figure deal for not much more than what they’ll end up paying Mazara anyway. Even if he signs for multiple years (I’de give him 3/25, no problem), Calhoun is a better defender and can at least hit lefties. Every season other than his 2018 aberration has been better than every year of Mazara.

One step forward (Yaz), two steps back (overpaying Abreu, foregoing better options for Mazara). Would love for Mazara to pull a 2017 Avi Garcia and prove me wrong, but Hahn is finding a way to blow it yet again.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

I suppose Mazara could improve, and Steamer does think that he will get to more home runs next year, and to almost the same number of wins as Kole Calhoun and Corey Dickerson. But also, Kole Calhoun and Corey Dickerson can hit left-handed pitchers. That’s kind of a big difference.

Beyond that, I certainly wouldn’t compare Mazara favorably to Castellanos. To give you an idea of how much better Castellanos is than Mazara: Last year, Mazara (as a lefty) hit right-handed pitching to the tune of 110 wRC+. That sounds good, but Castellanos (as a righty) hit right-handed pitching to the tune of 106 wRC+. In other words, Mazara’s offensive production when facing the platoon advantage is comparable to Castellanos facing the platoon disadvantage.

It’s a weird thing. It’s nice to have lefty hitters here and there so that your opponents can’t just run lefties out there all day long and enjoy a platoon advantage, but Mazara isn’t likely to scare opposing managers all that much. At least with Dickerson and Calhoun they can play every day.

Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

Kiley & the Crowd have Castellanos at 4/$56M and that’s with Steamer projecting 1.6 WAR vs. Mazara’s 1.3 WAR. So, obviously Mazara isn’t great, but 4/$56M for Castellanos? Hell no!! And you’re providing Mazara’s superiority to Castellanos vs. RH’s just proves my point further, since most AB’s occur against RH’s.

Again, the WSox will run a payroll around $130M. They can’t afford devoting 10% of it to mediocrities like Castellanos when they’re still only a 76-79 win team. They shouldn’t have devoted that much to Abreu, but whatever. If you want to argue Calhoun on a 1/$8M deal, ok, but not Castellanos. Not sure why you and others like Castellanos so much. You see his excellent 2nd half last year and see JD Martinez?

Finally, you’re vastly overrating Steele Walker. He’s 23 and just started at AA. I’m thinking he’s just going to be Ryan LaMarre, journeyman OF when he’s 25, no big loss there, though with his 40+ rating, maybe the White Sox could have combined him with others to get someone better than Mazara like 1 year of Joc Pederson.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

You clearly haven’t looked at Castellanos’s (‘s’s…) line against lefties. He TORCHES lefties. The result is that he is a good (probably not great, but good) offensive player, whereas Mazara is not. And on top of that, he’s as good as Mazara as the thing that Mazara is supposedly “good” at.

You can make the argument that he doesn’t “fit” the White Sox as well as Mazara because they don’t need another right-handed outfielder and they do need a lefty, but what’s the point in acquiring a lefty who isn’t any good? Generally speaking, if you have a choice between paying $6M for a bad player (and who will get more expensive from there) and $14M for a good player, you’re much better off with the latter.

I understand not wanting to spend money on Castellanos because of the specific need for a left-handed bat but Mazara is not the answer to this or any other question.

Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

A 1.6 projected WAR player is good? Worth $56M? I could see Ozuna for that much, but I would pay no more than 1/$10 for Castellanos.

gostros
Member
gostros

My number one hope as an Astros fan for the offseason(now that cole is gone) is that we extend Springer.