There is no question that Jurickson Profar is a big part of the Texas Rangers’ long-term plans, but with each passing day, it appears his importance in the short term is growing.
The Rangers' offseason has strangely mirrored the way their regular season unfolded. It started out with optimism and sky-high expectations before crashing down to earth.
Here are the highlights: Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton both chose the sunny skies of Southern California over the brutal heat of North Texas, Michael Young and Mike Adams will play in the City of Brotherly Love, Mike Napoli is in Beantown, and big trades involving players like James Shields and Justin Upton never materialized.
Needless to say, the offseason shopping list doesn’t have many check marks next to it.
The loss of key players in the lineup, and the failure to sign any replacements yet, brings us back to Profar. The game’s top prospect has proven that he’s ready to play every day in the big leagues.
His performance in the minors, plus the early success of super-hyped prospects like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, has put some lofty expectations on the 19-year-old. This is what ESPN’s Keith Law has to say about Profar’s potential:
"Long-term, he’s a superstar and someone who could make a run at Mike Trout for MVP awards"
When you read statements like that, it’s easy to see why Jon Daniels and the front office have shown so much faith in him. Unfortunately, right now they can’t afford to think very far down the road.
The Rangers are trying to win. The fanbase expects this. Profar is a very important part of a collection of youngsters who who must step up. The team traded Michael Young and will likely ask Ian Kinsler to switch positions to make room for him.
So, what are the expectations on Profar in 2013?
The hype sometimes makes it difficult to make these expectations realistic. Honestly, it’s unfair to demand a similar performance from Profar that we saw from Trout and Harper last year, even though he is receiving similar praise they did at his age.
Still, with the aforementioned turnover on the roster, the pressure does appear like it’s up a notch.
The way things look right now, it’s a tossup what Ron Washington will do with Profar, Leonys Martin/Craig Gentry, Mike Olt, and Geovany Soto in the lineup. Jurickson has all the tools to be the leader of that group.
Had the Rangers re-signed Hamilton and/or traded for Upton, then Profar settles into the bottom of the lineup where he has plenty time to develop. That just doesn’t seem like the case right now.
These are no longer the good old days when a potential World Series MVP like Mike Napoli can bat eighth in the lineup.
All this is not to say the Rangers are planning to hop on Jurickson’s back and ride him into October. In fact, more pressure is on players like Kinsler and Nelson Cruz to bounce back from down seasons.
But what does seem clear from the moves this offseason—or lack thereof—is that Texas is hoping for great things from Profar sooner rather than later.