Texas Rangers Position Preview: Right Field and the Year of the Next Step
Can the Texas Rangers and young cornerstone piece, Nomar Mazara take the next step in right field during the 2019 season?
High expectations. Once they are set, they are set for good. It doesn’t matter if they are met immediately, or if it takes an entire career. It takes a true amount of fortitude to achieve the standards that are set forth. True in life as it is in baseball. Certain expectations are not often given frivolously though, especially when you have a player with the natural ability of Nomar Mazara. The once highly touted prospect has yet to live up to his well-known ability, and for the Rangers, the primary right fielder needs to take a leap forward this year if there’s hope for him to become the elite level player that many thought he would become by now.
Over his first three seasons in the big leagues, Mazara has been virtually the same player every year. With not so great fielding an average hitting, at times he shows signs of brilliance, at other times it looks as if he will never reach his ceiling as a player.
The Stats and Where to Improve
The former Rangers number 2 overall prospect has anchored right field for three consecutive seasons, and for those three seasons he has put up nearly identical stat-lines: 20 home runs per year, with a career average of .258, and only a career WAR of 1.3. Granted it’s mainly that low because of poor defensive play, but to put it in perspective, Joey Gallo had a WAR of 2.1 last year alone. Plus, Mazara’s .320 career OBP doesn’t necessarily match the patience at the plate he was known for when he first burst on to the scene in 2016.
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The numbers he puts up makes him an average player, but being the highly-ranked prospect he was, that’s not quite good enough. He will look to quickly improve on these numbers in a few different ways. First off, he is hitting way too many balls into the ground. He had the 6th highest ground ball percentage in the entire MLB. Thankfully, that is something that new manager Chris Woodward has been talking about fixing according to this Jared Sandler tweet.
If this works, and Nomar generates more line drives and more balls in the air then who knows how brilliant he could become. It can add the power that has seemed to be hidden at times to his game. Secondly, he must improve as a fielder, with a -0.8 defensive WAR, that is not good for a player who is expected to be the cornerstone of your team for years to come. And finally, his speed; though this is one I do not think we’ll ever see improve, As he ranks 349th in the pros in sprint speed. It’s okay though, as that was never his forte anyways.
What Mazara Already does Well
As a young player at only 23 years old, the Big Chill has plenty of time to improve. He is known as a hard worker, with a passion for the game. With multiple reports of him really taking in what Manager Chris Woodward is saying, this could be a big year for Nomar. Also, we already know he can be a very serviceable player, even if he doesn’t take the next step. Although, I think we’d all love to see him reach his full potential, which could be one of the purest hitters in the league.
Other Options in Right Field
In case of injury or anything else that could happen there are a few options for who could take his place. Shin-Soo Choo has played plenty of time in right field in the past, but due to vast injury history and being 36 years old, I’d rather not want to see a scenario of him becoming the everyday right fielder. Even though he’s an above average leadoff hitter, he’s much better suited at designated hitter.
In another scenario Gallo could end up in right field, he does have a very good arm and has had a few appearances in all 3 outfield spots. He has grown well into the role since moving from 3rd base. Or if Choo ends up missing time again, or the Rangers find a trade partner to dump the contract then Willie Calhoun could move to left field and Gallo could go to right. This would possibly platoon a combo of Mazara and Calhoun for outfield spots and DH, as both are not very good fielders.
There are many possibilities that could play out, but the best one would be for Mazara to take the next step in becoming the superstar player that we know he can become. Then again, there is always Hunter Pence!
All in all, the Rangers are in pretty good shape in right field for now and for the future. It’s a young and talented position, that could grow into something incredible for this team. Let’s hope it plays out well.