If you've been following Spring Training to this point, you've undoubtedly heard about what Nomar Mazara has been doing. He's been hitting the ball hard, often, and at times, a long way.
It's the kind of performance that has some fans already asking how much Mazara needs to do to crack the Opening Day roster. The answer, if you've been following along, is that he can't make the roster out of camp. At least, if he does, it likely means that something has gone terribly wrong.
Your Opening Day outfield -- barring injury -- will consist of Ian Desmond in LF, Delino DeShields in CF, and Shin-Soo Choo in RF. Desmond will hopefully be able to provide some value as an infield utility man as well, but even when he's not in the outfield, you should expect to see Justin Ruggiano get some time. The Rangers don't want to rush Mazara. Or Lewis Brinson. Or any player. Not after the Joey Gallo experiment last season.
Gallo, of course, has had Rangers fans excited for several years now with his prodigious power. Unfortunately, he still strikes out a ton -- something he'll likely do for his entire career -- and was on a record pace during his brief Major League stint. He's now struggling to get things going in Spring Training, and some fans are ready to jump ship.
It's been the same at times for Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez. Profar was once the top-ranked prospect in baseball, bounced around without a defined role in 2013, and has now lost two full seasons to a shoulder injury. Even before the injury, many were prepared to declare him a bust.
Martin Perez worked his way so quickly through the minor leagues that he was up and pitching for the Rangers in 2012 at the age of 21. And when he struggled, because of the high-praises fans had been reading and hearing, there was an overwhelming sentiment that it was time for Texas to forget about his once-promising potential.
Perez, of course, dealt with his own injury, requiring Tommy John surgery in 2014. He returned in the middle of the 2015 season, struggled, but came on strong in the later months. The important thing to remember? Pitchers are almost always better in their second season back from Tommy John surgery. Perez is heading into his age-25 season. He's under club control through 2020 with a potential salary that maxes out at $9 million in 2020. For a pitcher that has top-of-the-rotation potential, that's a steal.
As for Profar, he's putting together a solid camp thus far. He's hitting the ball, but more importantly, he's handling shortstop fairly well, which is probably the more important aspect at this point.
I still believe in the value of Elvis Andrus, but I'm not too blind to see that if Profar can hit from both sides of the plate while providing some plus defense up the middle, his ceiling is definitely higher. Of course there are the contractual concerns with Andrus, but that's for the front office to figure out a later date. For now, getting Profar back into the swing of things is what matters. And not giving up on him. Or Joey Gallo. And certainly not Martin Perez.
In a sense, many of us were spoiled for awhile. Nelson Cruz ended up putting things together to be immensely valuable for two World Series clubs. Josh Hamilton came over from Cincinnati in the Edinson Volquez trade in 2008 and produced immediately.
For perspective, on how amazing that was -- and how insanely talented Josh was -- consider that prior to missing time between 2002 and 2006 due to a drug suspension, Hamilton had seen nary a pitch above the Double-A level. In fact, he'd only had 95 plate appearances in Double-A in 2001. Being a Rule 5 pick by Cincinnati in 2007, he was required to be on the Major League roster. And despite missing some of the most important developmental levels in the game -- something that I feel has majorly contributed to his steep decline as his natural abilities have eroded -- he tore the cover off the ball.
When guys like Cruz and Hamilton are producing and making it look so easy, our natural tendency is to want the guys we've seen touted as the top prospects in the game to put it all together immediately upon arriving to The Show. And while it's going to be really tempting to want Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, or any number of other guys to take meaningful plate appearances for the Texas Rangers this season, it's important to remember that sometimes, you can't rush development.
And just because things don't always work out in the time-frame we'd like them to, that doesn't mean that everything is a wash. Jurickson Profar still has a high ceiling. Martin Perez could end up being one of the best pitchers that Texas has as early as this season. Joey Gallo can still cut down his strikeouts enough to be an effective player. And when Mazara and Brinson eventually do struggle, there's still a load of talent there to back up the idea of being patient with them.
But we love prospects. We love them because of what they represent: A brighter future for our favorite team, and proof that good things come to those who wait.