On Saturday, Texas Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo suffered a strained right calf while running the outfield prior to a game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. As it turns out, the injury is serious enough that it has landed him on the DL, and he'll miss 4-6 weeks.
In his stead, Texas called up Nomar Mazara, a member of the pool of talented prospects the Rangers have in their system. Mazara, still 16 days shy of his 21st birthday, is a player Keith Law ranked No. 9 on his top 100 prospects list and Baseball Prospectus ranked as the fifth-best prospect in baseball.
As far as major-league debuts go, Mazara was nothing short of sensational. He singled in his first two at-bats, then hit a 443-foot home run to center field in his third at-bat. On a day in which Jered Weaver baffled many of the Texas hitters, Mazara never really appeared to be fooled. Instead, he stayed back on the ball and drove it, finishing 3-for-4 on the day. In short, it was the kind of hitting performance that many coaches would love to use to show proper swing mechanics.
Going forward, it remains unclear what the plan will be for Mazara for the long-term. The original plan had been for him to spend a significant portion of the season getting everyday at-bats at Triple-A Round Rock, after playing just 20 games there in 2015. Of course, Choo’s injury changed that fairly quickly.
How long Mazara spends up with the big club will largely rest on how he handles the opportunities he's given. I can't envision Texas using a prospect of Mazara's caliber in a platoon situation. Texas had other options -- Ryan Rua is on the roster, and Justin Ruggiano may have been another consideration -- but chose to recall Mazara instead. That signals that he'll get the bulk of the playing time in right field.
Assuming he plays well in Choo's absence, Texas may face a logjam of sorts once Choo is ready to return. With five years and $102 million remaining on his contract, Choo won't be relegated to bench duties, especially after his strong second half last season. Ian Desmond figures to remain a piece of the Texas outfield picture. The odd man out could end up being Delino DeShields Jr.
There has already been speculation that Desmond could slide over to center field sooner rather than later, and that would allow DeShields to be somewhat less exposed by becoming a fourth outfielder, a role that would seem to suit his speed nicely. At that point, Texas could employ an outfield of Mazara in left field, Desmond in center field and Choo in right field.
This all hedges, of course, on solid play by Mazara and a timely injury recovery from Choo. There are service-time considerations for Mazara that could impact any decision. However, make no mistake: If Nomar Mazara plays well, he may have played his last games as a minor leaguer.
Brandon Land writes about the Rangers at One Strike Away.