The Texas Rangers have made a splash in the international free agency market, spending a reported $9 million to lock up three Dominican prospects. The most notable agreement they appear to have reached is one with 16-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara, who will be receiving a $5 million bonus according to Enrique Rojas. That’s record money for an international prospect, beating the $4.25 million the A’s gave pitcher Michael Ynoa in 2008. Before we discuss whether or not he was worth the money, let’s share what we know about him.
According to a scouting report on Baseball America, via MLBTR, Mazara is a 6’5″ left-handed hitter. They say he has the best power of any Latin American hitter, but that he also has a propensity for strikeouts. MLBTR says Rojas said Mazara has the best power of a Latin American hitter since Wily Mo Pena and Miguel Cabrera (though we can’t track that quote down).
So now that you know what scouts are saying about Mazara, I ask you the question: is a 16-year-old prospect worth a $5 million bonus?
Spending $5 million on a 16-year-old from the Dominican is not something teams want to do, but it’s something they have to do to win a bidding war, and obviously the Rangers felt Mazara was worth it. If Mazara has the potential to be a Miguel Cabrera-type hitter, then spending $5 million to have him in their system is worth it.
Here’s the issue: can you even tell how good a player will be when he’s 16?
Players don’t develop at 16 in baseball. It’s even difficult to tell how good prospects are when they’re 18. However, for the elite talents — the guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, or Bryce Harper — you can tell they’re that good at 16. If Mazara is in that class, then he’s worth the money. If he’s not, it really isn’t a huge risk for Texas when you think about it.