When Nomar Mazara was called up early in April to take the roster spot for an injured Shin-Soo Choo (crazy, I know), many expected the then youngest player in the big leagues, to be sent back down when Choo was healthy. Mazara, deciding that he liked the fancier planes, better food and bigger paychecks, smashed his way through both April and May to keep his starting job all season.
Over his 63 at-bats in April following his call-up, Mazara displayed a solid approach at the plate, slashing a .333/.392/.460 line. His success carried over into May, where Mazara also began to add some home run power. While the OPS dropped from .852 in April to .809 in May, Mazara managed to hit seven balls into the seats in just over 100 May at-bats.
Mazara's most impressive home run came May 25th, 2016 in a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Facing Hector Sanchez and with the count at 1-1, Sanchez laid an 83 MPH pitch into Mazara on the inner half and it was absolutely destroyed. In fact, the 491 foot blast turned out to be the third longest home run measured by Statcast all season.
The fact this dong came off a left-hander makes it even more impressive when we look at Mazara's season as a whole. While Mazara only faced left-handed pitchers for 111 at-bats in 2016, the results were severely lacking: .234/.277/.270. Compare this to the .274/.332/.459 triple slash over 405 at-bats against right-handed pitchers and we begin to wonder if Mazara might be facing a platoon role in the future.
Of course being one of the youngest players in baseball, there's still time for Mazara to learn how to hit against lefties and the home run off of left-hander Hector Santiago certainly shows he can at least get lucky from time-to-time. My concern regarding this issue is the fact that some scouting reports also mentioned a problem against left-handed pitchers in the minor leagues - again at a very young age.
Besides from a large platoon split displayed in 2016, Mazara was a complete shell of his first half self during the second half of the 2016 season. From July until the end of the season, Mazara posted a .239/.301/.402 triple slash. Also concerning was a near 8% drop in contact ability from the first half to the second.
Using the projections readily available on FanGraphs for Mazara we see most systems expecting a near repeat for the youngster.
Note: Of course the "fans" project 8 stolen bases for Mazara - aka 3 more than he's ever swiped in a season and with well below-average speed. Good job, well done.
While 20 home runs is not an insanely high bar to clear, I have questions surrounding Mazara's ability to even reach this level in 2017. First, there's the platoon split issue that reared it's ugly head in 2016, which could put a constraint on his total trips to the plate. Second, there's a higher than ideal ground ball rate that will require an above league average HR/FB rate to conquer as he did in 2016. Lastly, there's the Statcast data which all points towards a slightly steeper hill to climb than the systems above are projecting.
For example, Mazara's Average Distance (feet) last season was 12 feet below the league average rate. His Average Generated Velocity (MPH) was only a tad higher than the league (1.77 MPH vs 1.45 MPH) and his Average Launch Angle, which also plays into the ground ball rate we mentioned above, was 6.01 degrees, not ideal for consistent power.
It seems many early drafters are also having a hard time placing Mazara on their draft boards. Using early NFBC ADP we see that Mazara is currently being selected around pick 206 (round 13/14 in a 15-team mixed league). Of course ADP alone does not tell us the entire story. I like to also look at a player's minimum and maximum pick to gauge how the market perceives his stability. Mazara's range is one of the wider I've seen. In at least one draft this season, someone has selected Mazara 115th overall (7/8th round in a 15-team mixed). Mazara has also been selected as late as 275th overall (18th round in a 15-team mixed).
If you believe in the projection systems above (minus the Fans ridiculous stolen base projection), then selecting him in the 175-190th overall range should be your target. If you believe Mazara's struggles are real to varying degrees, the platoon issue won't cure itself completely in 2017 and he could even see a brief AAA demotion to clear his mind, then hope and pray he falls closer to the 275th overall pick mentioned above. Mazara could drastically under perform his projections above and still return even value at that price.
As for the person who selected Mazara 115th overall, I have nothing for you. So many things would need to click this year for Mazara to bust out to this level that it feels more like a "look at me pick" as compared to a "I want to actually win this league pick".
While questions surround Mazara, there's no denying he's talented, especially when age is considered. You will want to watch his ADP as February and March approaches, as more casual fantasy baseball players could inflate his draft price as they read "breakout and sleeper" type posts in preparation for their upcoming drafts. If the ADP stays in the 175-210 range, by all means, take the chance on this inconsistent, yet talented youngster.