Talking about the major league club isn't fun right now, so let's talk a little about a minor leaguer...
Hickory outfielder Nomar Mazara was a player who was tagged by a lot of observers this spring as someone who looked ready to make a big leap forward. Mazara famously received a record $4.95 million signing bonus in July, 2011, the summer when the Rangers spent huge in Latin America, also inking Ronald Guzman, Rougned Odor, and Yohander Mendez to big deals, among others. The Mazara signing what somewhat controversial, however, as many observers felt he was raw even for a J-2 signing, with huge power, but also huge questions about his ability to translate that into game action.
Mazara was one of the high-ceiling Hickory teens last year, and he not unexpectedly scuffled as one of the youngest players in the league, putting up a .236/.310/.382 line. Mazara returned to Hickory this year, but was still the 9th youngest player on a Sally League roster on Opening Day, not turning 19 until late April, and I think there was a lot of optimism about Mazara building on his 2013 campaign.
The early returns for Mazara (and for most of the 2014 Hickory players, for that matter) were not good, however. Mazara put up a .205/.293/.307 slash line in April, which was discouraging, and after a 1 for 4 outing against the Kannapolis Intimidators on May 17, Mazara was hitting just .214/.282/.318 on the season, in 170 plate appearances. Whatever a breakout season is, this was looking like the exact opposite.
However, there were a couple of promising signs. Mazara had 10 walks and 19 Ks in 99 plate appearances in April, a level of plate discipline and contact which was encouraging. After an 8.7% walk rate and 25.9% K rate in 2013, Mazara improved to 10.1% and 19.2% in April of 2014. He wasn't hitting for much power, and his BABIP was a paltry .250, but there were some positive signs there, even though his slump continued into the first half of May.
I don't know if Mazara started eating his Wheaties while in Kannapolis, but after that 1 for 4 performance on May 17, he put up three straight 2 hit games, with three doubles, breaking out of his slump. And Mazara has continue to hit well going forward...since May 18, over a 20 game (93 plate appearance) stretch, Mazara is hitting .333/.430/.641, with 7 doubles, a triple, five homers, and 13 walks against just 16 Ks. That works out to a 14% walk rate versus just a 17.2% K rate over that stretch. And in the month of June, Mazara has been on fire, putting up a .410/.500/.744 line in 48 plate appearances over 10 games. He's hammering the ball right now the way the Rangers were hoping he'd be able to grow into doing when they signed him.
Now, of course, we have the standard caveats. We're dealing with a relatively small sample size, and we're dealing with arbitrary endpoints. And Mazara is in low-A ball, a long ways away, and he's a guy whose bat is going to have to carry him up the ladder, so he needs to mash. Its a long season, and just by virtue of me writing about him today, I'm probably hexing him, and he'll go 0 for his next 23.
But still, its a very encouraging sign for a guy who probably has the highest offensive ceiling of anyone in the farm system other than Joey Gallo. And there's progress being made that doesn't show up in a quick glance at Mazara's .253/.335/.427 line.
So don't sleep on Nomar Mazara...he's making some strides of late, and could be figuring it out.