Editor's note: This post originally ran on Saturday (complete with some now out-of-context comments), but seems as appropriate to run on this holiday morning as anything else that I can think to conjure up.
And as quickly as the angst materialized over the Rangers' controversially off-the-board Rule 4 draft class, it has vanished into the great beyond. On Saturday, they pulled off one of the great -- okay, the greatest -- single-day international talent hauls since the formal inception of the July 2nd signing period, committing upwards of $10 million on a cornucopia of Latin American amateur talent that included the following high-profile pieces:
OF Nomar Mazara (6' 3", 185 lb., L-L; Dominican Republic): After originally being projected by Baseball America to pull down merely the 10th-largest signing bonus in this year's international class, Mazara ended up bringing down the house with what has been reported by ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas to be a record-smashing bonus in excess of the $5 million mark -- a sum which, if confirmed as true in the coming days, would easily eclipse the $4.25 million bonus that Michael Ynoa procured from the Athletics three years ago. The scuttlebutt appears to be that Mazara's price tag is inflated (at least to the extent that other baseball people felt the money here was greater than what the raw talent merited), but there are few organizations as diligent in their international scouting efforts as the Rangers, and there is little question that they have a potentially elite offensive talent on their hands.
Baseball America earlier highlighted Mazara's incredible raw power (the product of a big, strong frame, very quick hands, and a "massive" leg kick paired with good weight transfer), which was the best to be found in this year's class and which Jason Parks described over at Texas Farm Review as a potential 80-grade future tool in terms of projectability; one scout told Parks that Mazara's power was the best he had ever seen in a 16-year-old player, period, and Parks himself suggested that his offensive potential was at the superstar level, with the major league-caliber physical projection and power-hitting qualities making him something of a "rare commodity" where the July 2nd market is concerned.
That said, there is some amount of question about his hit tool -- which is "immature" despite the quality of the swing itself, and could lend itself to an heavy strikeout rate down the line -- and the below-average defensive tools, but the other thing worth keeping in mind here is that Mazara has proven difficult for some teams to get a proper read on, as his representation (Ivan Noboa, who was alleged to have conned one of his players out of $100,000 back in 2004) has been cautious in showcasing Mazara; thus, this could be a situation where a lack of fully-formed scouting information across a number of different teams helped ensure that there weren't more teams involved in the hunt, and helped contribute to the impression that he was paid more than he was worth.
[Update: The Rangers will reportedly introduce Mazara at a press conference in Arlington on either Wednesday or Thursday of this week.]
OF Ronald Guzman (6' 4", 195 lb., L-L; Dominican Republic): Standing proud and tall as one of the other crown jewels in this year's international class, Guzman was projected by Baseball America to pull down the second-largest bonus of any Latin American prospect inked this summer, and if his reported $3.3 million bonus proves to be accurate, it would fall between Ynoa's $4.25 million and Miguel Sano's $3.15 million windfall from the Twins two years ago as the fourth-largest international amateur bonus in baseball history.
I already dropped quite a bit of information on Guzman over in the Clubhouse last month, but as a general refresher, he takes after Mazara in that he is also an offense-first talent -- that is, he boasts a projectable frame, a pretty swing with good bat speed, and an advanced approach for a 16-year-old that all translates into two potential plus offensive tools, as well as a questionable arm and wheels that may leave him best suited for left field as a professional. In any event, Guzman will either sink or swim on the strength of his offensive skill set and the extent to which it translates from the amateur to the professional level. For what it's worth, Parks' sources describe Guzman as the "no-brainer" offensive talent in this market, and likely the best positional prospect overall.
LHP Yohander Mendez (6' 4", 170 lb., L-L; Venezuela): This signing has yet to be confirmed by an English-speaking source, but there have been multiple Twitter-based reports out of Latin America suggesting that the Rangers have signed Mendez to a seven-figure bonus; this wouldn't come as an immense surprise if true, as he has been prominently linked to the Rangers by Baseball America. The story here is, of course, one of projection: his mechanics are described as smooth and fluid (which is unusual for most pitchers of his size), and he brandishes a solid mid-to-high-80s heater with good arm action, as well as a curveball and a change-up that he has reportedly shown some feel for.
If the fastball can develop to the point that it reaches the low-90s (or higher?) with consistency, and his command and off-speed stuff can develop correspondingly, he will prove to be a very alluring player to follow as he ascends through the system. If those tools don't properly develop, the likelihood is that he'll stall developmentally, which occurs all too often with young talent procured both internationally and domestically. It is what it is, and the reality is that failure could very easily strike every name listed here, as well. The other reality of this game, though, is that you don't have to hit on every player, or even most players, or even some players ... because it requires only one or two big successes to justify all of the vast resources poured into the amateur talent markets.