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.
|Year/Stat||wRC+ vs RHP||Hard Hit%||Barrel% (Savant)|
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.
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.