Earlier today, it was reported that Shin-Soo Choo would be headed to the disabled list, as he is slated to miss up to six weeks with a calf strain. In a concurrent move, the Rangers will be calling up top prospect Nomar Mazara to ostensibly take over as the everyday right-fielder. At the very least, I suspect that he'll see the lion's share of the plate appearances, as Ryan Rua is best-suited as a lefty masher in a platoon.
Choo was arguably the Rangers best offensive player last season, batting .276/.375/.463 with 94 R, 22 HR, 84 RBI, and 4 SB; in most circumstances, that's a difficult player to replace. Despite this, most Rangers fans seem downright pleased that he'll miss a bit of time. Why? Because Mazara has the potential to step into the lineup and become and immediate force. Here's what Michael Schwarz had to say about him in our Rangers top-10 fantasy prospects post:
Despite his relative youth--he will not turn 21 until April 26--Mazara seems like one of the safest bets in a loaded system. Scouts already view him as the top corner-outfield prospect in baseball. His .296/.366/.443 slash line and palatable BB:K ratio of 52:102 across AA and AAA bespeak a polished hitter. In fact, the hype surrounding Mazara should be louder than it is, but "safe bets" and "polished hitters" don't always generate much excitement. Furthermore, Mazara's reticence, calm demeanor, and seemingly effortless success have earned him the nickname "The Big Chill." Fantasy players, however, should not lose sight of the fact that "steady-as-they-come" Mazara still has an enormous ceiling. At 6'4"-195, he maintains plenty of projectability. In short, Mazara looks like a run-producing slugger who will hit in the middle of the Texas lineup, produce strong averages and 30-HR seasons, and play in multiple All-Star games.
The soon to be 21-year-old was ranked second on that list, and eighth on our consensus top-100. In my mind, he has the best pure hit tool of any player currently in the minors, and may well have the highest offensive floor of any prospect as a result. While it is never a certainty that a player will come up and hit from day one, I would hazard that Mazara has an excellent chance of doing so - particularly in a good lineup and a hitter-friendly park.
If Mazara is up for good (which would not be shocking, given the team's questionable outfield depth and Ian Desmond's ability to play 2B and SS), I could see him being the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year. A .275 to .285 batting average with 18-plus home runs is a reasonable expectation over 140 or so games. With his advanced approach, remarkable hitting ability, and track record of making adjustments, his only limitation might just be playing time.