This Could Be the Beginning of the End for the Rangers and Jurickson Profar
Jurickson Profar, who still has an 80-grade smile.
Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball reduced Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor's suspension for clocking Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista from eight games to seven. With Odor's appeal of his suspension dealt with, he'll sit out tonight against the Pirates and for much of the next week.
The Rangers will be restricted to having just 24 players on their active roster rather than the usual 25, but they've decided to call up a like-for-like replacement for Odor anyway, electing not to allow utility infielder Hanser Alberto to start the seven games in Odor's stead. The name of the minor leaguer getting called up should be familiar to even casual Rangers fans — it's Jurickson Profar, the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
Thanks to recurring shoulder injuries, Profar has not appeared in major league game since 2013. Before the injuries, he was thought to be a decent to good defensive shortstop who, if everything went right, might end up hitting like former Blue Jays, Orioles and Indians legend Roberto Alomar. Before his shoulder got in the way, Profar was going to be the cornerstone of the Rangers infield well into the 21st century's third decade or he was going to be part of a trade that brought an enormous return. Starting this week, he has the opportunity to salvage his star-crossed young career.
So far in 2016, Profar has been decent, not great at Triple A Round Rock. He has a .782 OPS which is right in line with the minor league numbers he put up before his first Rangers call-up in 2012. If hitting was all he needed to do, Profar has been gently worming his way back to being a real prospect — he's still just 23 years old. Hitting isn't all he needs to do though.
Back when he was the next big thing, much of Profar's value was tied up in the fact that he could put up better than average offensive numbers while playing better than average defense at shortstop, a premium defensive position. Profar has never done anything spectacularly. Now it seems like he might not be able to play even average defense at short.
Because of the shoulder injuries, Profar has trouble getting fully on top of his throws from deep in the shortstop hole, struggling to make plays that one has to make to handle the position. Taking over for Odor will allow him to audition at the position for which he is now better suited. Second base doesn't require the long throws that are essential for shortstops, and Profar seems like he can still hit enough to provide value at the keystone.
He just probably won't do it for the Rangers. Odor, now a folk hero following the Bautista right hook, isn't going anywhere. He's durable and seems to develop more power monthly. Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is finally hitting enough to justify his huge contract, blocks Profar's path in the unlikely scenario that his arm comes back around. There just isn't really a place for Profar in the Rangers' organization, which would've seemed unfathomable a couple of years ago.
As the trade deadline approaches at the end of July, any uptick in Profar's stock can only benefit the Rangers. They should be able to get some value for him, definitely not as much as when he was at the height of his powers, but more than when he was thought to be a lost cause because of his injuries. How much might come down to how he plays this week.