In the days leading up to the publishing of Prospect Pipeline’s top 100 prospects last week, I found myself waging an inner war over who should rank as the league’s No. 1 prospect. Even though I gave Jurickson Profar the nod in my midseason and end-of-year rankings, my certainty that led to his previous ranking had slightly diminished this time around.
It’s not that the now-20-year-old shortstop did anything to adversely affect his ranking last season—clearly. As one of the younger players at the Double-A level, the switch-hitting Jackson batted .281/.368/.452 with 47 extra-base hits, 16 stolen bases and 79/66 K/BB in 126 games. His overwhelming success at the level ultimately led to a September call-up from Double-A Frisco.
Although it was a small sample size (17 at-bats, to be exact), he offered an exciting glimpse of his potential by launching a no-doubt home run in his first big league plate appearance. And he even picked up a knock as a pinch-hitter in the Rangers’ wild-card play-in game.
For what it’s worth, I did briefly consider bestowing Oscar Taveras with top prospect honors. However, I eventually realized that the temptation was largely rooted in my undeniable man-crush on the 20-year-old Cardinals outfielder.
And then there were two, Profar and Dylan Bundy—baseball’s unanimous top position and pitching prospects, respectively.
However, despite my original reluctance to give the award to Profar, the decision to ultimately rank the toolsy shortstop over Bundy was a no-brainer.
In his professional debut last season, Bundy established himself as an elite pitching prospect by registering a 2.08 ERA and .186 BAA with 119/28 K/BB in 103.2 innings across three minor league levels. The then 19-year-old right-hander’s dominant campaign culminated with a promotion to the majors in late September, as he went on to make two appearances out of the Orioles bullpen.
Beyond the video game-like stats, Bundy has all the makings of a future ace, with a loaded arsenal of above-average to plus-pitches and polish that’s unprecedented for a player his age.
At 6’1” and 195 pounds, the right-hander is already physically strong and understands how to utilize both his lower half and core strength. Bundy’s minimum-effort delivery allows him to repeat his mechanics with consistency, which, in turn, should allow him to take the mound every fifth day.
Bundy’s advanced four-pitch mix is highlighted by a mid-90s two-seam fastball with late arm-side life. And he’ll occasionally reach back to blow hitters away with a four-seamer that scrapes 98 mph. Bundy's breaking ball is a hammer and is another plus-pitch with tight rotation and an impressive shape.
His changeup is his most consistent secondary pitch, and it should evolve into another above-average offering with further refinement. Rounding out his arsenal is a raw slider with average potential, though it currently pales in comparison to the curveball.
Despite that absolutely glowing review of the 20-year-old right-hander, Jurickson Profar has the potential to be a perennial All-Star and stick at one of several up-the-middle positions. While top-flight pitching prospects come and go, a toolsy switch-hitting shortstop is a rare and valuable commodity worth building around.
A 6’0”, 165-pound switch-hitter, Profar is loaded with wiry strength, and he utilizes it to showcase plus bat speed from both sides of the plate.
Overall, the 20-year-old’s swing is short and compact, and he should possess an above-average to plus hit tool box at maturity. From his natural right side, Profar’s swing is line-drive oriented; from the left side, he exhibits intriguing raw power with a more of a leveraged swing.
While Profar’s offensive potential alone would qualify him as a top-10 overall prospect, it’s his outstanding defense that separates him from the field. Capable of playing both middle infield positions (but obviously more valuable at shortstop), his actions are natural and fluid. Meanwhile, his strong, accurate arm is more than enough for the left side of the infield.
Profar also exhibits plus range in all directions thanks to quick feet and remarkable instincts.
After excelling at each minor league stop and reaching the major leagues last season, Profar has been repeatedly praised for his moxie. And he already seems comfortable handling himself in high-pressure situations.
Don’t get me wrong, Dylan Bundy is an absolute stud, and he will only continue to improve. Jurickson Profar, however, is truly special in the sense that he has the potential to be an impact player in the majors, not to mention the face of the Rangers franchise, for a long, long time.