Before the 2013 season, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, ESPN, and MLB.com ranked the top 100 prospects in baseball, as they always do. There were disagreements because there always are. Addison Russell was #48 in Baseball America’s list and #10 in ESPN’s. Trevor Story was #34 on Baseball Prospectus’ list and #99 on MLB.com’s. Corey Seager made some lists, and he was left off other lists. This sort of variety is expected.
Jurickson Profar was the #1 prospect in baseball according to all of them. They didn’t get together and talk about it. It was just understood. Profar had just turned 20 that February, and he already had major league experience. He had power, range, bat control, patience, and a tremendous arm. He was the perfect prospect, give or take. There was a decision to be made with him and Elvis Andrus, but, ha ha, that’s the kind of problem that spoiled franchises face, alright.
It’s four years later. Four years and two shoulder injuries later. Four years, two shoulder surgeries, and 648 mostly unimpressive plate appearances later. Profar is going to be 24, the same age as some prospects. He’s entering his arbitration years, just like an established player.
Profar’s career has freakishly matched Alexi Casilla’s through their age-23 seasons.
Profar: .235/.311/.341, 648 plate appearances, 75 OPS+
Casilla: .261/.310/.336, 647 plate appearances, 75 OPS+
Profar’s career hs freakishly matched the career of Luis Aparicio, Hall of Famer, through their age-23 seasons.
Profar: .235/.311/.341, 648 plate appearances, 75 OPS+
Aparicio: .262/.314/.337, 1,228 plate appearances, 75 OPS+
This is Jurickson Profar:
Do you see a rabbit or a duck? Do you see a future Hall of Famer, or do you see a guy who will kick around a while before becoming a non-roster invitee? Note that the rabbit is clearly the Hall of Famer in this analogy. Ducks smell awful.
In almost any other context, in any other situation, this wouldn’t be that unusual. Enigmatic young players are as much a part of baseball as green grass and the 7th-inning stretch. Leave him alone, let him do his thing, and hope for the best.
Except this is a strange situation. Profar is a shortstop by trade, except the Rangers already have a shortstop. One who is perfectly fine and making $88 million for the next six years.
Fine, move Profar to second. Except the Rangers already have a second baseman. He should be a shortstop, too, and he hit 33 home runs last year. Then he swung at one of the home runs when it reentered our atmosphere, but that’s nitpicking. They’re set up the middle.
Okay, move Profar to third. Except the Rangers already have a third baseman. He’s going to the Hall of Fame. Plus, Profar’s shoulder injury means that his arm isn’t as strong as it used to be.
Great, fine, okay, cool, move him to center, stop with these hypothetical mind games. Except the Rangers just signed Carlos Gomez, and Nomar Mazara is pretty good, and, look, it’s not going to happen.
So Profar is at first. Which is like using a Ferrari to store office files. It’s offensive if he’s as good as hoped because that’s a waste of talent. It’s offensive if he’s an awful hitter for a first baseman because that’s a waste of a position that should go to a slugger.
We’re all reaching the same conclusion, then. Trade him. Find him a home where he can become the shortstop he was supposed to be. This kind of player, with this much potential, should have all kinds of suitors. Except here are the teams who are thrilled with their current shortstops:
- Red Sox
- Blue Jays
- White Sox
That’s 24 teams, with some teams on the fence, like the Orioles (they can always move Manny Machado back) or the Reds (Zack Cozart has been pretty good for five years now, even if he’s in his 30s now). It also doesn’t include a team like the Phillies, who are keeping a spot warm for a hotshot young shortstop.
There just aren’t a lot of teams who should want Profar as a starting shortstop right now. It’s a Golden Age of Shortstops, apparently, where even the Diamondbacks can squeeze a couple of wins out of Chris Owings and be happy. And as a second baseman, Profar sure is a player with a career 75 OPS+ and limited power. A GM shouldn’t want to make accommodations for a player without any sort of offensive track record.
Check that: A GM shouldn’t make those accommodations if he has to give up a chunk of his farm or major league roster.
The Rangers wanted Joe Ross, a young, above-average starting pitcher in a market devoid of them, for Profar, who might hit just enough to be a shortstop and is just three years away from free agency.
Unless he’ll hit just enough to be an All-Star shortstop, and those will be the best three years his new team could possibly hope for.
Unless he’s a 24-year-old who’s finally healthy and capable of maximizing that latent talent that made him the consensus top prospect in baseball.
The headline reads:
Jurickson Profar is the strangest trade chip in recent baseball history
Nope. It should read “Jurickson Profar is the strangest first baseman in recent baseball history, but he sort of has to be.” There’s no other option. Other teams aren’t going to trade for a potential that we haven’t seen in four seasons. The Rangers aren’t going to give up that potential for pennies on the dollar because the rest of the infield is filled.
If a team isn’t going to pretend that the last four years didn’t happen and treat Profar like he’s the best prospect in baseball, a deal would be possible. As is, the only thing the Rangers can do is let Profar hit, and hope he hits enough for a first baseman, which would allow them to peddle him in the offseason as a shortstop out of water.
Even then, it would be tricky to find the right fit (see the bullet-pointed list above), but it’s the Rangers’ best chance to turn the best prospect in the world into something of value. That, or Profar hitting so well that you don’t even notice that he’s overqualified for a first baseman. They’re fine with either way.
In the meantime, recognize what a strange journey Profar has taken. From no. 1 prospect to miscast first baseman, and we still don’t know what he is yet. Not at all. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to empathize with the Rangers or be jealous that they get to try this all again.
Probably a little of both, really.