For an organization that has heavily invested in scouting and developing its own, the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup should feature roughly one-third homegrown players.
That’s neither big nor alarming.
As a franchise that spends big money, the Rangers use “their own” to flip for proven talent — i.e. Cole Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy. Or they buy the talent, i.e. Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish.
For the sake of this franchise’s farm system, however, it would be nice if outfielder Nomar Mazara hit. Figuratively and literally.
Mazara needs to do for the outfield what Rougned Odor has done for the infield — represent this franchise’s developmental system from seedling to oak.
It’s all there for Mazara to become a lighter version of Nelson Cruz rather than the second coming of Ruben Mateo or Hank Blalock.
The Rangers have had their share of All-Star outfielders in the past decade or so, but you would have go back to Juan Gonzalez to find one who was born and raised in their own system.
Mazara is not Juan, but his ceiling says All-Star.
Much like this team’s other prime young players, from Joey Gallo to Jurickson Profar to Odor, Mazara was rushed too quickly to the big club. Under GM Jon Daniels, the team routinely worships its top Double A players and pushes them up, letting their talents figure it out.
Most teams do that now and, while the rewards are plenty, so too are the risks.
The promotions of Gallo and Profar were duds, and Odor’s ascent had major problems before he hit his stride ... and then Joey Bautista’s jaw.
“It’s just not me — a lot of players come up early to the big leagues,” Mazara said Thursday. “Right away when I got here I talked to (Adrian) Beltre; he told me to keep doing what I was doing in the minors. ‘Always work no matter what. Just keep doing the same thing here. Be on time.’ And I take it from him; he got called up when he was 19.”
Mazara is a 21-year-old kid who should, ideally, be preparing for at least one half season of Triple A ball. But that thinking is now archaic, and Mazara has 516 big league at-bats worth of experience.
In the first two months of last season, he was batting .302 with nine home runs and 24 RBIs. The league predictably figured him out and his final stats looked like that of a good rookie: .266, 20 homers and 64 RBIs with an OPS of .739.
“He was not going to continue the torrid pace he was on earlier in the season. It happens,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Players settle in and talented players, they get challenged. Young talented players get challenged more than most because they are unsure of the workload.
“Dig deeper and the numbers were exceptional for a young guy even if you parcel it out. We feel he can be a star in this league.”
Approximately no one within the Rangers is worried that the second-half slump Mazara suffered as a rookie will be his norm as a big league player. If it is, like Blalock or Mateo — two big-time Rangers homegrown prospects who flamed out with the team — Mazara won’t last too long.
While Mazara’s power numbers remained relatively consistent from one half to the next, his batting average dropped 40 points in the second portion of the season.
“It was in or away,” he said. “The first half, everything they threw was around the zone. I just have to wait for my pitch, or if I walk, just walk. I was in a rush and I reached.”
Name me a kid — any kid — who wants to, or is good at, waiting. Mazara whiffed 112 times with 39 walks.
The encouraging part was that he did not deviate too greatly from the swing that elevated him to the big league club. He chased his share of junk, but it did not destroy his swing. He kept the swing compact, and his confidence intact.
“Now I just have to stick to my approach,” he said.
Like Odor, Mazara may still have one more trip to the minors left in him, and expect Banister to sit him for a while against lefties. But between his raw ability and maturity, Mazara can be that player we all were so enamored with after his promotion.
“I’m always a Texas Ranger since they signed me,” he said. “I’ve always been a part of this family since the minor leagues. From the first time I stepped into the clubhouse they welcomed me here and I feel like I belong here.”
As long as he stays patient at the plate, and the Rangers remain patient with him, he will become the rare homegrown Rangers All-Star outfielder.