It’s easy to forget, since he hasn’t played in the big leagues in three years, that in 2012 Jurickson Profar was the unanimous #1 prospect in all of Major League Baseball. That includes ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider required), Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus. I’m not making this shit up.
Jurickson made his debut on September 2nd, 2012, which I believe was the cutoff day for minor leaguers to be eligible for postseason rosters. He was just 19.
This was his first major league plate appearance:
The Rangers were 78-54 (.591) on the day of Profar’s callup but, under then-manager Ron Washington, he would be used only sparingly over the season’s final month. After his 1-4 (HR) debut in Cleveland, Jurickson would see only 13 plate appearances in the club’s last 29 games. He finished the regular season 3-17 (.176/.176/.471, 60 wRC+) with that HR and 2 2B’s, and four punch outs.
Profar would receive the bulk of his service time a year later, in 2013, in spite of lacking a defined role. He essentially turned into Texas’s super-utility guy; he played 268 innings (50%) at 2B, 147 (27.4%) at shortstop, 88 (16.4%) at 3B and even dabbled with 34 innings (6.3%) in left field.
There is little, in the way of empirical evidence, to suggest a correlation between a player having a primary position and how well he hits, but in 2013 Jurickson struggled at the plate. Granted he was only 20 at the time, but his .234/.308/.336 (75 wRC+) slash line fell short of the increasingly high expectations the baseball world placed on him. He finished the season worth -0.3 fWAR, slightly sub-replacement level.
Nonetheless, the Rangers forged a position for him in the fall of that year. They traded my all-time favorite player, 2B Ian Kinsler, to the Tigers for 1B/DH Prince Fielder. Here is what I said about the trade at the time:
So, clearly, the Rangers are banking on Prince’s pre-2013 production. If they get it, then paying nearly $20 million per season over the next 7 years won’t look so bad. If his diminished production from 2013 is the start of a trend, if it’s not just a single-season outlier, then this will go down as perhaps the worst trade of Jon Daniels’s tenure with the Texas Rangers, which includes trading Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres, as well as Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals for Brad Wilkerson.
There is high upside to getting Prince Fielder, but only if he hits like his name is Prince Fielder.
(We’ll save the What’s The Worst Trade Jon Daniels Ever Made conversation for another time, but when we have it I’ll be sure to pat myself on the back.)
As much as I hated seeing Kinsler go, the trade did temporarily solve the Rangers logjam of middle infielders. Elvis Andrus was to be the shortstop of the future, Profar the second baseman of the future, and nothing else mattered.
Injuries hit Texas like a plague in 2014. Jonah Kari appropriately highlighted them in a column titled The Texas Rangers Lost Season, back when Grantland was still functional. Among them they lost Fielder (neck) and Profar (shoulder) to season-ending surgery and rehab, respectively, and finished the year 67-95 — dead last in the American League West.
That was also the year Texas found a new second baseman of the future, a kid named Rougned Odor. You might have seen him once. Ironically, the Rangers went from having too much middle infield depth with Kinsler, Profar and Andrus, to trading Kinsler and losing Profar for the year… and having very little depth. As a 20 year-old, Odor took advantage of that opening, hitting .259/.297/.402 (89 wRC+) in 417 plate appearances. He hit better and over a larger sample than Profar did a year earlier at the same age.
Rougned probably secured the starting 2nd base job in 2015 regardless of Profar’s shoulder situation, which turned out to be pretty bizarre. After missing all of 2014 rehabbing, Jurickson elected for surgery to fix his torn labrum in February of 2015, meaning he was to miss another year of baseball. It makes you wonder why they didn’t just have the damn surgery a year earlier.
Odor, meanwhile, proved to be one of the best young players in the game in 2015, hitting .261/.316/.465 (105 wRC+) with 16 HRs, 9 3Bs and 21 2Bs. More impressively, after a brief minor league stint he finished the year .292/.334/.527 (126 wRC+). Dude was legit, even before The Punch.
But Jurickson Profar wasn’t going to be hurt forever. I was surprised at how many fans had written him off, but he was still only 22! I’m a sucker for the prospects, but Profar was a special prospect. Even with Odor’s ascension, and the Rangers being entrenched in Elvis Andrus’s contract, I still wanted to believe Jurickson had a future with the Rangers.
He played winter ball this past offseason, but didn’t spend any time in the field to help build strength in his fragile shoulder. He was the all-time DH, and hit a respectable .267/.352/.453 (115 wRC+) with an abnormally strong 11/10 BB/K ratio. Keith Law wrote at the time that he looked good at the plate, and that “his bat speed is totally intact,” which was positive. In his first two months at Triple-A, primarily playing shortstop, Profar batted .284/.356/.426 (113 wRC+) with 5 HRs.
When Rougned Odor began serving his 7-game suspension — for slugging Jose Bautista in the face — Profar was called up to fill in.
This is how far we’ve come in the last two and a half years. During the 2013 offseason the Rangers traded away one of the most productive second basemen of his era to make room for the top prospect in MLB. By 2016 they couldn’t even find a place to play that top prospect, and he’s pretty fucking good at baseball.
In eight games with Texas, Profar is 14-37 (.378/.395/.649) with 2 HRs, 1 3B and 2 2B’s. He’s recorded a hit in all eight starts he’s made, and two hits in six of eight contests. The Rangers are 6-2 since his call-up.
He looks every bit like the guy the Rangers thought they’d be getting to start the 2014 season.
I’m all in
I’m not the small samples guy. I’m the large samples guy. Jurickson Profar didn’t perform well in the majors as a 19 and 20 year-old, which is understandable. Because he was 19, and 20. He wasn’t playing regularly, and when he did play he had no regular position on the diamond.
It’s possible the Rangers have visions of trading him at some point this summer. After all, Rougned Odor is already a franchise player, and Elvis Andrus still has $103 million due to him between 2017-2023.
Jurickson Profar is my favorite position player, and even I am not optimistic enough to find him regular at bats with the roster as it’s currently constructed.
Interestingly, on Saturday the Rangers activated Odor from his suspension, but chose to keep Profar on the big league roster. This is noteworthy since Jurickson will very likely be taking at bats away from falling star, Prince Fielder, who is hitting a paltry .187/.257/.288 (40 wRC+) on the year — worth -1.6 fWAR, the worst mark in MLB.
You would think if the Rangers had plans of cutting Fielder altogether, they would instead just bring up Joey Gallo (.294/.438/.676, 187 wRC+ in Triple-A) to assume Fielder’s plate appearances down the stretch. Right now Profar might be the more polished major league hitter between the two, but it’s Gallo who offers the higher ceiling. That situation still has to play itself out, but I’m not betting on Fielder to be on the roster come late-summer.
The Rangers front office is incredibly loyal. They once proved it with Michael Young. But I’m banking they are not blind enough to let their pride get in the way of what’s best for the organization in 2016.
As for Jurickson Profar: In a perfect world he is my everyday shortstop, which would mean I’m eating maybe $25-$30 million of Elvis’s remaining contract (which comes out to around $4 million per year) and trading him. Even if Jurickson’s defense at short isn’t to the caliber of Andrus, his bat would more than make up the difference. In a runs saved vs. runs created argument, Profar would be more of a net positive in the future.
Texas could also use some of what they are saving from Elvis’s deal to lock up Profar to an extension, which isn’t as silly as it sounds. In the two years Jurickson lost to injury, he was accruing big league service time. So it counted against the six years he was under Rangers control.
As such, even though he hasn’t played since 2013, it’s as if he was on the roster during 2014 and ’15. So 2016 is technically his 3rd year. He will be a free agent after the 2019 season, which is right around the corner when you really think about it.
This is very pie in the sky, even with how simple it seems in my head. For whatever reason, Jon Daniels seems married to Elvis Andrus. Quality big league shortstops are so rare, that he would probably rather keep the known quantity, even if that guy is average to above average.
Profar is a star, so it’s hard for me to accept average to above average when there’s a real chance the younger, better hitter outproduces him by two-plus wins per season over the next decade. I’ve been as big of an Elvis Andrus supporter/apologist as exists on the Internet, but we have already seen the best he has to offer. Both defensively and at the plate.
With Jurickson Profar, we haven’t seen his best. Because we’ve never really seen what he can do when given consistent playing time. He’s been an absolute menace in the eight games he’s been up; Jurickson’s production has been so good that it makes it really, really easy for me to defend his position on the roster. And even to project a little fairytale happy ending where Profar and Odor are the middle infield duo for the next 10 years.
He could also be a showpiece, a guy the Rangers have plans of moving, so they play him to increase their return in a potential July trade.
Either way, this has been fun. Especially at a time when Profar can help a first place baseball team. Just like he was meant to do all along.