Newly-christened second baseman Jurickson Profar worked out at a mini-camp at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this past week; current top infield prospects Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor were there as well. The message from Texas Rangers‘ management was clear: Jurickson, you’re our guy for now, but you may want to rent for a while longer.
Profar was the toast of the town in the minor leagues and a legitimate five-tool player. Stuck as he was behind Elvis Andrus, there were incessant whispers that Profar was essentially your son’s rare Pokeman card and that the Rangers were waiting for his value to go up enough to cash him in.
But the rumored trade never happened for whatever reason. Then spark plug second baseman Ian Kinsler went to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for corpulent slugger Prince Fielder, and Profar received his chance to step up. So far the jury is still out. In his extended audition last year, Profar blasted out of the gate but then fizzled into a weak .234 average with just six home runs. Very quietly, the e-word has begun to circulate.
As the season wore on, Profar had more and more trouble making solid contact. He endured a very distressing 13-for-55 slump with just one RBI. One theory is that the lanky 165-pound Profar simply wore down physically and needed some extended time off; a more troublesome theory is that Profar lacked the strength to hit the ball hard when the pitch was not right on the sweet spot.
Whatever the reason, if Profar should falter, the Rangers may have some thinking to do around mid-season. Profar is clearly no Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, and he probably never was. However, Profar does not need to be checking into flights to Oklahoma City just yet. There may be another e-word more applicable to Profar.
Given the other offensive upgrades this past offseason, the team doesn’t need Profar to be Bryce or Harper. The team expects Profar to get on base ahead of Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, and he can’t be a station-to-station guy once he gets there. Profar had an impressive .370 OBP last year despite the lack of consistent hitting. At AA ball in 2012, Profar swiped 16 bases in 20 attempts, so he clearly has that potential. The Rangers would rather not talk about his two steals in six attempts a year ago. Profar also must continue to play good defense, and the switch to second may help. The shorter throw and fewer lefty hitters may mean less wear-and-tear on Profar.
The Rangers open the 2014 season at home against the Philadelphia Phillies on March 31.