No scientific survey is needed to know that every MLB team would love for its prospects to be ready at 20 years old. Just like anyone would rather dine at a restaurant with a Michelin star.

But neither figures to happen with frequency.

That’s why the quick ascension of Texas Rangers rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara has captivated baseball like Scott Disick’s latest fling does Page Six.

Through 18 games, Mazara, now 21, is hitting .324/.380/.441 with two homers and eight RBI. He is third among all rookies in batting average and second in on-base percentage.

Talent has been a driving force, sure. But there are other promising 21-year-olds in the game, the majority of whom haven’t reached MLB. There are others who are still figuring out professional baseball in Double-A.

Maturity has been Mazara‘s biggest asset as he has navigated baseball’s professional ranks over the last four years. At 16, he signed a contract that included a then-record bonus of $5 million. So, in essence, this was supposed to happen. The Rangers expected it.

That comes with pressure, none of which Mazara felt.

“I didn’t put too much pressure on myself,” Mazara said. “I didn’t care about the money. I just wanted to play baseball.

“I was pretty young when I signed, so I had to take it step by step,” he continued. “I had to develop in the minor leagues. I think they did a pretty good job of taking care of me down there—to give me what I needed at times. It didn’t take that long. It only took four years. I respect the way they did it, and I’m here now.”

The question now: Will he stay?

Mazara was supposed to make his MLB debut this season, just not this early. A calf injury to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo necessitated that Mazara be called up April 10.

At the time of the injury, Choo was expected to be out four to six weeks. He was only hitting .188 but had an OBP of .409—his key number. So reason would suggest Choo will reclaim his starting spot once he is healthy.

That will leave Texas debating what to do with Mazara—provided he is still playing at a high level. During his interview with Bleacher Report, Mazara said he would feel comfortable with a move to left field. It would require relegating Ian Desmond to the bench, a move that the Rangers would assuredly make if Mazara‘s play warranted it.

Prince Fielder is the team’s DH and doesn’t figure to be moved from that role, giving Texas few options should the organization elect to keep Mazara at the big league level. With a prospect as young as Mazara, however, the concern is getting him regular plate appearances.

So this much is certain: He won’t remain at the MLB level to sit on the bench.

Essentially, Mazara is going to need to play at a level that forces the Rangers to keep him with the big club. A slump would make sending him back to Triple-A as easy as a network’s decision to cancel a poor-performing drama.

Few in the Rangers organization seem to feel he will fall off, though.

“The separator for Nomar is just, you can call it maturity, or you can call it just a presence,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He seems very relaxed in his own environment. I don’t think we’ve been fooled by that at all. I think that’s real.”

Jason Wood, manager of the Round Rock Express, the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, echoed that sentiment: “His maturity level for the age that he is at right now is just off the charts.”

What makes Mazara such a prolific hitter is his ability to dictate the strike zone.

That’s not a learned skill, according to Banister, but something that is innate. The Texas manager has seen players of all ages without the rare attribute, though he admitted it’s something that can develop further.

“That’s something that he’s probably had all the way through his baseball career,” Banister said. “That’s not something that just showed up.”

Combine that with a naturally calm demeanor, and Mazara isn’t a player who looks anxious at the plate. It’s why the right fielder is hitting second in the lineup.

It’s a spot in the order that sees a high number of fastballs. Given that most teams have, in theory, their best hitters in the middle of the order, pitchers are careful not to put the No. 2 hitter on base.

But the spot is important enough that any team, especially one with championship aspirations like Texas, wouldn’t hit a player that high in the order if it didn’t think he was capable.

His demeanor—calm, without anxiousness at the plate—makes him an ideal top-of-the-order hitter. Both Banister and Wood indicated they’ve rarely seen him off balance. Wood was complimentary of Mazara‘s discipline in laying off two-strike pitches.

Regardless of what happens when Choo returns, Mazara is certain to help the Rangers in their playoff chase if he plays anywhere close to his current level.

“I want him to get healthy quick because our team needs him—but when he gets healthy, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t make decisions,” Mazara said. “So I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing right now and see what happens.”


Seth Gruen is a national baseball columnist for Bleacher Report. Talk baseball with Seth by following him on Twitter @SethGruen.

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