Newberg Report: Mazara could be cornerstone

Newberg Report: Mazara could be cornerstone

Part 15 in a season-long series projecting a hypothetical 25-man roster made up solely of prospects from the Texas Rangers' Minor League system.

For most of the Rangers' 40 seasons, regardless of the state of the team, you could count on one thing: big power. The Burroughs expansion years, the Hostetler and Incaviglia freak shows, Gonzalez and Sierra, Canseco and Palmer, Palmeiro and A-Rod, Teixeira and Blalock, Hamilton and Cruz.

Texas has also historically had plenty of home run hitters on the farm, some of whom found moderate success in Texas, others who exploded elsewhere. Sammy Sosa and Ruben Mateo. Carlos Pena and Adrian Gonzalez. Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. Chris Davis and Justin Smoak.

But in the past few years, in spite of the organization's lengthiest stretch in or near the top tier of baseball's farm systems, there's been a relative shortage of projectable middle-of-the-lineup talent, particularly in the outfield.

While Texas doesn't draft or sign amateur players for need, the club made a strong statement this summer as far as addressing a relative lack of power in the system is concerned, signing 16-year-old outfielders Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman out of the Dominican Republic for what remain the top two bonuses paid this year to any players, by any team, on the international amateur market.

Jamey Newberg's hypothetical 25-man roster made up of Rangers prospects
No. 1 starter: Martin Perez
No. 2 starter: David Perez
No. 3 starter: Neil Ramirez
No. 4 starter: Cody Buckel
No.5 starter: Luke Jackson
Long reliever: Barret Loux
Right-on-right: Johan Yan
Left-on-left: Joseph Ortiz
7th-inn. reliever: Justin Grimm
RH setup: Roman Mendez
LH setup: Robbie Ross
Closer: Tanner Scheppers
Catcher: Jorge Alfaro
First baseman: Chris Davis
Second baseman: Luis Sardinas
Shortstop: Jurickson Profar
Third baseman: Mike Olt
Left fielder: Engel Beltre
Center fielder: Leonys Martin
Right fielder: Nomar Mazara
Designated hitter: Ronald Guzman
Backup catcher: Kellin Deglan
Utility IFer: Leury Garcia
Corner IFer: Christian Villanueva
Fourth outfielder: Jordan Akins

Mazara reportedly signed for $5 million, the largest amount ever paid to an international prospect. Rangers scouts pegged the left-handed hitter as a potential cornerstone talent, and the front office, viewing him as the top prospect in a uniquely deep international market, recommended a landmark commitment that ownership got behind to get a deal done.

Featuring a pronounced leg kick reminiscent of Juan Gonzalez and Ruben Sierra, Mazara generates impressive bat speed, though there is some debate about his ability to make contact. There are differences of opinion on his potential to defend -- but Texas believes he profiles as a right fielder, with the arm to impact games and a corner bat to match.

Mazara's power is already remarkable -- some have suggested no Latin American teenager has shown as much raw power potential since Miguel Cabrera 12 years ago -- and his slender 6-foot-5 frame will certainly fill out, carrying plenty of added weight and strength.

The games won't count for a while, as Mazara signed a 2012 contract. He has reported to the Rangers' Dominican complex in Boca Chica, playing in a non-sanctioned league whose schedule got under way this week. He'll report to Fall Instructional League in Surprise, Ariz., in two months and will be back in Surprise for Spring Training in March. He won't turn 17 until a month after camp breaks. Where his Minor League career will start isn't clear, and won't be decided for another eight months.

The power may not show up immediately. It didn't for Gonzalez, it didn't for Sierra, it didn't for Sosa or Palmer or Blalock or Cruz. There will be a temptation among fans to expect Mazara to put up video-game numbers right away, given the financial commitment Texas made in order to ensure that he didn't end up with the Red Sox, A's, Mets or Blue Jays. But this is a kid who, if he were subject to the Draft, wouldn't be eligible until 2013.

There are other power hitters developing on the Rangers farm. Davis is having a prodigious Triple-A season, Chad Tracy and Mike Bianucci and Tommy Mendonca are putting up impressive power numbers, and Mike Olt was having an extraordinary year at the plate before a broken collarbone sidelined him in early June.

But none of them, with the exception of Bianucci (and occasionally Davis), is an outfielder. There have been years in the franchise's history when it was basically defined by power-hitting outfielders, in Arlington and on the farm. These days, that's a profile that may represent the one relative weakness in a very strong Rangers farm system.

With Mazara at the forefront of the effort, Texas intends to change that in a big way.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.