Does Jurickson Profar Have the Tools to Play Outfield Down the Stretch?
In his major league debut on Saturday afternoon, baseball’s top prospect, shortstop Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers, made the most of his opportunity.
With a flair for the dramatic—as we witnessed in the 2012 XM Futures Game when he jumped the yard off Jake Odorizzi to open the game—Profar blasted a solo home run (from the left side of the plate) in his first big league at-bat. The switch-hitter followed the solo shot with an opposite-field double in his second at-bat and finished the game 2-for-4.
As you might have read here over the course of the season, Profar has the makings of a future superstar. Here is what I wrote in my scouting report on Profar when I named him baseball’s No. 1 overall prospect in Prospect Pipeline’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects:
The youngest player in Double-A all season, the 19-year-old has thrived, making easy adjustments without showing any concerning holes in his game. He possesses an above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate that’s highlighted by quick wrists and an advanced feel for the strike zone.
At the time of his call-up to the major leagues, Profar was batting .281/.368/.452 with 135 hits, 26 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs, 16 stolen bases, 79 strikeouts and 66 walks for Double-A Frisco.
As we all saw in the XM Futures Game, Profar has surprising pop for his size that, when bundled with his quick wrists, could yield 15 to 20 home runs in his prime—possibly even more.
Although his speed only grades out as above average, Profar is an adept base stealer who has been successful in 16 of 20 attempts this season.
His quickness is more noticeable on defense, as Profar has excellent range at shortstop and clean actions through the baseball. He is a plus defender with soft hands and also possesses a strong arm that will allow him to remain at the position.
The top position prospect in the minor leagues, Profar has the potential to be a superstar given his natural ability as a switch-hitter and defensive prowess at short.
While he’s obviously equipped to handle either shortstop or second base, ESPN’s Buster Olney (ESPN Insider access required) recently suggested the Rangers should consider giving him time in the outfield.
However, there’s one problem with that: The Rangers outfielders are productive.
Josh Hamilton (.941 OPS in 126 games), David Murphy (.916 OPS in 120 games), Nelson Cruz (.805 OPS in 132 games), Craig Gentry (.759 OPS, 12 SB in 104 games) and Leonys Martin (.657 OPS in 17 games) have all played key roles in the Rangers’ potent offense this season, so there’s no immediate reason to decrease their playing time.
But after posting a 139 wRC+ as a 19-year-old at Double-A, meaning that Profar created 39 percent more runs than the average player at that level, and turning in a stellar big league debut, his impressive bat may force the Rangers' hand.
If he hits at the level of which he’s capable, the Rangers will seemingly have to find a position to play him on almost a nightly basis. Whether that means spelling either Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler at shortstop or second base—therefore relegating them to an occasional role as the team’s designated hitter—or inserting him in the outfield remains the only question.
When I was 16 years old at an Illinois-based Chicago White Sox prospect event, I had a conversation with a scout who said that he looks at and recruits shortstops almost exclusively.
Because you can theoretically take a shortstop and put him anywhere on the field.
A legitimate shortstop prospect has the athleticism and tools to stick at the position, meaning that he has excellent instincts, above-average speed and range, smooth actions and hands and a plus arm. Typically, a shortstop is the most athletic player of the field.
Furthermore, it’s always significantly easier for a player to move from the infield to the outfield rather than the inverse.
While his reads and subsequent routes may not be the cleanest or prettiest, Profar already possesses the attributes to handle a sudden move to the outfield.
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