There are rampant reports this morning, national and local, all generating from an initial tweet from Enrique Rojas of ESPN, that Texas will sign 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Nomar Mazara for a $5 million bonus, which would be the largest ever given to a Latin American amateur, outdistancing the $4.25 million that Oakland gave righthander Michael Ynoa three years ago.
Mazara, a 6'4" L/L prospect, is said to have extraordinarily prodigious power potential (which is ahead of his hit tool) and projects defensively to play on a corner. Baseball America had him ranked number 10 on its list of what it expected this year's Latin American class members to sign for (that is, it's not a talent-based ranking but one tied to expected price tag). Among the teams Rojas said were "in battles until the last minute" with Texas on Mazara were the Red Sox, A's, and Mets. The Blue Jays were also linked to him.
Rojas also tweets that the Rangers are close to signing Ronald Guzman, a 6'5" L/L Dominican outfielder whom Boston and Toronto had been linked to as well. BA expected Guzman (who, along with outfielder Elier Hernandez, "have been the two highest-profile prospects in Latin America for July 2, with scouts split on which of the two is the better prospect") to fetch the number two signing bonus in this yar's class. (Sports Illustrated is reporting that Guzman agreed to something in the $3.3 million neighborhood.) And BA ties Texas to a handful of other Latin American free agents as well.
The addition of Leonys Martin, Mazara, and Guzman to this system, not to mention supplemental first-rounder Zach Cone (and maybe sixth-round pick Derek Fisher, who apparently wants first-round money not to go to the University of Virginia and will have to decide whether to turn pro over the next six weeks), obviously overhauls the organization's outfield prospect inventory dramatically.
Speaking of which, for those questioning why Texas didn't use pick 33 or 37 on Jesuit high school outfielder Josh Bell a month ago, the Rangers appear to be on the verge of bringing both Mazara and Guzman into the system for about what Bell alone was said to be demanding - if he was going to sign at all, rather than going to the University of Texas.
The Mazara-Guzman outfield infusion, if the reports are accurate, has the feel of the Rangers adding the J2 shortstop duo of Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas in 2009, with higher stakes. It builds depth, it adds potentially big bats to a system relatively light on those, it makes it a little easier to part with minor league outfield talent in trades if something along those lines is being considered.
We've been used to the strength of this organization's scouting efforts in Latin America for years, and now we're getting a good look at the new ownership group's financial commitment to that part of the program, starting two months ago with Martin and continuing today, as Texas is apparently on the verge of making as big a splash in this year's J2 class as any franchise in baseball.