The White Sox announced Monday that they’ve activated right fielder Nomar Mazara for his season debut. In a pair of corresponding moves, catcher Yermin Mercedes was optioned to their alternate training site and right-hander Jimmy Lambert was placed on the 45-day injured list.
Mazara has yet to live up to the top prospect hype that surrounded his MLB debut with the Rangers, but he’s been a steady 20-homer producer with slightly above-average offense against right-handed pitching (career 103 wRC+). And while he’a already a four-year MLB veteran by virtue of his early call to the bigs in Arlington, his youth leaves the hope for some yet untapped upside at the dish.
As MLBTR’s George Miller explored a few months back, Mazara is quite impactful when hitting to the opposite field, by virtue of the fact that he elevates the ball with much greater regularity than when pulling the ball. Mazara’s number of pulled grounders are alarming and indeed have limited his output to this point in his career. However, he generally ranks above the league average in terms of average exit velocity, barrel rate, expected slugging percentage and a number of other Statcast metrics that portend some remaining upside. Mazara will likely be platooned with righty-hitting Adam Engel early in the season, per Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, but there’s obvious potential for Mazara to work his way into a larger role.
Even if Mazara simply maintains the status quo, though, that’s not an entirely bad thing for the Sox. Granted, plugging in a slightly above-average bat to the lineup doesn’t sound like a huge boost, but in nine games this season, White Sox right fielders have turned in a putrid .167/.211/.333 slash. Mazara’s lifetime .271/.337/.462 line against right-handed opponents looks all the better when juxtaposed with that to-date production (or lack thereof) from Chicago right fielders. Engel’s career .253/.299/.390 slash against lefties isn’t great — though it is better than Mazara’s career levels — but that platoon arrangement should lead to some improvement for what has already been a strong White Sox lineup.
The White Sox acquired Mazara in December trade that sent minor league outfielder Steele Walker to the Rangers. Mazara is playing out the 2020 season on a one-year, $5.56MM contract (prorated to about $1.97MM) and is controllable through the 2021 season via the arbitration process.