The Padres have signed corner outfielder Nomar Mazara to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league Spring Training, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive (Twitter link). Mazara was eligible to sign a minors pact during the lockout because he didn’t finish the 2021 season on a club’s 40-man roster or major league injured list, having been released by the Tigers in June.
San Diego president of baseball operations A.J. Preller was a high-ranking member of the Rangers’ scouting staff in 2011, when Texas signed Mazara as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic. The left-handed hitter’s big power potential made him a coveted signee, with the Rangers doling out a bonus just under $5MM to secure his services.
For a while, that looked to be a great investment. Mazara posted big production over his first few minor league seasons. He continued to impress scouts along the way, emerging as one of the sport’s top 25 overall prospects by 2016 (in the estimation of Baseball America). He made his MLB debut as a 20-year-old that April and looked to have a good chance of emerging as a long-term lineup fixture in Arlington.
Mazara hit .266/.320/.419 with 20 home runs over 568 plate appearances as a rookie. Those aren’t world-beating numbers, but it was nevertheless a promising debut showing for a player the age of a typical college junior. Mazara remained the Rangers’ regular right fielder over the next three seasons, but his awaited breakout simply never arrived. He hit between 19 and 20 homers every year, posting slightly below-average offensive numbers in each season. For a bat-first player whose glovework in the corner outfield hasn’t rated highly, that wasn’t much more than replacement level production.
Texas moved on from Mazara after 2019, trading him to the White Sox for outfield prospect Steele Walker. Mazara had a rough 149 plate appearance showing in Chicago during the shortened 2020 season, and the Sox cut him loose that offseason. The Tigers took a low-cost flier last winter, but he hit only .212/.276/.321 over 181 plate appearances in Detroit before being released. He didn’t latch on with another club the rest of the season.
Preller has brought numerous former prospects with whom he’s familiar from Texas over to the Padres. On a minor league deal with a non-roster invite, there’s no downside for the Friars in getting a look at Mazara in Spring Training. San Diego has plenty of uncertainty in the corner outfield mix, with Tommy Pham hitting free agency and seemingly annual speculation about the possibility of Wil Myers coming up in trade talks.
Mazara, still only 26 years old, could have a good opportunity to crack the roster with a strong showing in exhibition play. Yet his days as a top prospect continue to get further in the rear-view mirror as he’s struggled to handle big league pitching. Over parts of six MLB seasons, he’s a .255/.315/.418 hitter, production that checks in around 12 points below the league average by measure of wRC+.