Jurickson Profar: The Next Breakout Star in Oakland?

SEATTLE— Top of the 7th inning. 2-2 count. Jurickson Profar still looks alive against journeyman pitcher Zach Duke. Duke comes down with a slider that Profar watches go by for the backwards K. In that moment, Profar would slowly walk to the dugout for his final time as a Texas Ranger. The strikeout oddly seemed like a metaphor of how frustrating his career was in Texas.

It’s hard to believe that Profar was the number one prospect in all of baseball seven years ago.

“Future face of the franchise.”

“His makeup is off the charts”

“Displays exceptional work ethic, coordination, and range in the field and instincts.”

“Potential elite hitter.”

These are the sort of scouting praises that echoed coast-to-coast and made the future of the Texas Rangers system scary good. These are the sort of expectations that followed Profar, no, haunted Profar after he made his big league debut.

In the 88 games he played during his first season, Profar batted .234 with 6 home runs and had 26 RBIs. A far cry from the sort of hype he received straight out of the gate. The next year, their longtime second baseman Ian Kinsler moved on, and Profar, being known for his versatility in the field, got the nod from then manager Ron Washington to start there Opening Day. Then the setbacks happened.

Early on, he went down with a shoulder injury that placed him on the 60-day DL, in hopes he could return by that June. His rehabilitation didn’t go as planned and he was inevitably shut down for the remainder of the 2014 season.

By 2015, the Curaçao native made the tough choice to undergo shoulder surgery, which kept him out of the 2015 season as well. So in three seasons Profar missed considerable time from the field, putting him far behind other prospects he came up with in the system. And in baseball it’s a ‘what have you done for me lately business.’

By that adage, Profar’s fell out of the spotlight and was basically fell into the category of the forgotten— especially in Texas. With the rise of second baseman Rougned Odor, it was easy to move on from Profar as an infielder.

Bad luck aside, Profar still maintained his “exceptional work ethic” he was known for, the one scouting mark that remained true at this time.

When he returned in 2016, the club started him in Triple-A for the Rock Hound Express. As the log jam in the infield continued in Arlington, Profar’s best shot to play every day at this point was in the outfield, particularly left field. But the competition was fierce.

The next couple seasons he would split time with Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua there, eventually being overlooked altogether. It wasn’t until this past season that we got to see a hint of what Profar could become. Making Texas’ roster as a utility fielder, he seemed to finally find his role with the team.

His first full season, with only a short stint on concussion protocol, he hit .254 with 133 hits, 20 homers and 77 RBIs while playing first, second, short, third  and left field. His hard work and resurgence earned him the 2018 Richard Durrett Hardest Working Man Award by the DFW chapter of the BBWAA.

Coming into 2019, Adrian Beltre‘s retirement pointed to Profar being his replacement at third base to start the season, until Texas GM Jon Daniels was able to deal him during the Winter Meetings. Profar was dealt in a three-way trade to the Oakland A’s. Daniels stated that the organization put a lot of time into Profar and it was “time to move on.”

While the move was hard for Texas, this was the best move for both parties involved.

There was so much hype and expectation on Profar, that he never really had a chance to develop his game the right way. Let’s also take into account that he made his debut at the raw age of 19-years-old. The average prospect enters the majors by 23 or 24, normally. It’s very likely that Texas was too eager in moving Profar up the ranks.

They were self-indulgent, having made the 2011 World Series, and wanted to maintain their championship level of play. With Nolan Ryan heading operations at the time, there was a rush to win, and win now, before his time with the organization ran out. Profar’s shoulders were loaded with weight he wasn’t willing to carry at that time. Plain and simple, he wasn’t ready.

Following his departure from the only club he’s ever known he stated to NBC Sports, “I wanted to play because I missed a couple years because of injury. That’s why I wanted to go. And then last year, I had a chance to really play. As long as I’m playing, I’m good.”

Looking on to a future in Oakland, Billy Beane and the club have sustained many incredible players throughout the last two decades. Their keen eye for talent is still one of the very best in the league. Whether it’s a young unknown or a veteran looking for a new environment, they seem to get the most out of their players. Of course until the price is too high to retain them.

Profar is entering a great situation here. He comes at a discount rate and will be able to be an everyday player, most likely in the infield. What we seen in 2018 are snapshots of a special player with a unique set of skills and a higher ceiling than we thought, after an injury-plagued start to his career. Profar is finding the barrel consistently and is more patient at the plate than he’s ever been.

His frame is still slim, so he could beef up some, sure. His long swing and stride give him potential to hit to all parts. In the field he’s been able to maintain a .979% while committing 40 errors in five seasons— 17 of them while playing third base.

Profar is joining an Oakland team on the rise, who have many top prospects ready to make their big league debut. This is a special acquisition for Oakland that could, and should, pay off in a really big way.

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