Updated: Oct 14, 2021
I'm giving Nomar Mazara a pass on 2020.
Let's back up to this time last year. Mazara had just come off a pretty boring season in which he hit only 19 home runs with a .268 batting average. He was a below average hitter that season (95 wRC+). Back up even further and Mazara has been boring for as long as he has played in the Major Leagues. Before his 19 home runs in 2019, he hit exactly 20 home runs in three straight seasons, and in each of those three seasons he was also a below average hitter, per wRC+.
Nevertheless, I was interested in Mazara heading into 2020. Despite his metronomic 20 (and 19) home runs for four straight seasons, his power was actually increasing, hidden only by his declining plate appearances.
Now look at his home runs during that period using the same home run rates, but as though he had 600 plate appearances each season:
Mazara's hard hit rate backed this trend up, as it had increased in each season since his debut in 2016:
I was buying shares of Mazara left and right heading into 2020. He didn't project to be a star, but he looked like he could fall into 25 home runs with not even a full season worth of plate appearances. Then Texas traded him to Chicago and all of a sudden he has a change of scenery and he's part of an exciting lineup. The pieces were all in place.
Then 2020 happened. The power disappeared. Mazara posted the worst strikeout rate (29.5%) of his professional career in any meaningful sample. It was a lost season.
And that's how I'm treating it. Nomar Mazara is not the only player to produce a line entirely out of character in 2020. But he is also suspected of having contracted coronavirus, which is likely why he began the season on the injured list. Some of the underlying metrics were actually good. Per statcast, Mazara was in the 90th percentile in hard hit percentage and the 82nd percentile in exit velocity. With only 149 plate appearances after starting an irregular and short season late, Mazara never got a chance to work through things and find a groove. Bank on a rebound.
Update (2/11): After I originally published this piece, the White Sox non-tendered Mazara, which changed his 2021 outlook substantially. The Detroit Tigers signed him to a 1-year $1.75 million deal in February. Somewhere between a full-time and strong side platoon player, Detroit should give Mazara between 400 and 600 plate appearances, which makes 15 to 22 homeruns a realistic range of outcomes. Mazara's current NFBC Draft Champions ADP (January 1 through February 10) is 526. He is worth that price and presents a nice profit opportunity as a depth outfielder in those formats. In shallower leagues with in-season moves, put him on the watch-list.
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