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White Sox acquire Nomar Mazara from Rangers for prospect Steele Walker

Steele Walker, Texas Ranger may be the hero that Players’ Weekend needs.

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Rangers continued distancing themselves from a wave of mid-2010s prospects who never really panned out, dealing outfielder Nomar Mazara to the White Sox for outfield prospect Steele Walker. The teams announced the deal — which was first reported by MLB.com’s TR Sullivan — late Tuesday night:

Mazara, a former top prospect who won’t even turn 25 until next April, very well may have more untapped potential, but it feels like moving on is best for both parties. The Rangers haven’t been shy in admitting their mistakes in identifying a young core earlier this decade; they already moved on from Jurickson Profar, a relatively young player who they once considered a franchise building block, and they likely already would have moved on from 25-year-old Rougned Odor if he didn’t have three seasons and $36 million guaranteed remaining on a six-year contract.

Mazara, who came up as a 20-year-old in 2016, was rather encouraging in his debut season, posting a .266/.320/.419 slash line with 20 homers — pretty good numbers for a raw hitter who was expected to develop quite a bit as he got older. The thing is, Mazara never really progressed. He’s put up virtually the same numbers in each of his four big-league seasons: He’s never had an OPS+ lower than 90 or higher than 96, he hit 20 homers in each of his first three seasons before breaking with the trend and hitting 19 in 2019, his batting averages have ranged between .253 and .268, and his on-base percentages have been somewhere between .317 and .323. He also hasn’t been very good in the field — he had -4 defensive runs saved as a right fielder in 2019 and has -19 DRS between the corner-outfield positions over his four major-league seasons.

While that lack of progression obviously provides reason for concern, the White Sox didn’t have an obvious starter in right field — they started six different players at the position in 2019, led by Ryan Cordell with 49 starts — and will be more than willing to bet on Mazara’s potential as they try to ascend to the next level and compete for the AL Central title in 2020.

Walker, 23, was the White Sox’s second-round pick in 2018. Between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem, the left-handed hitter posted a .284/.361/.451 slash line with 10 homers and 13 steals over 528 plate appearances. He was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the ChiSox’s system by MLB Pipeline.