by Ryan Potter
A short note before you start reading: There may be some terms in this article that you aren’t familiar with. I tried to resolve this issue in advance by highlighting the words most likely to cause confusion in blue and linking them to a more clear explanation over at 80 Grade Want. All you have to do is click on the word. If you encounter a term that you feel needs further explanation and there is no link to it, contact me and I’ll do my best to provide an explanation.
Last night I was looking at the 2013 ZiPS projections while doing some research for an upcoming article on rookies that will make an impact this season. Of course I planned to include Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar in my list. I put together a few notes on him and moved on, but as I broke down spreadsheet after spreadsheet, the same problem kept creeping into my thoughts. Despite Profar’s stellar projected stat line for this season, I have no idea how he’s going to get enough playing time with Texas to produce those numbers. It bothered me enough that I felt compelled to step back from my work for a minute and write what I think the Rangers could do to get Profar on the field and what they should do if they can’t.
I realize that most of you are wondering who Jurickson Profar is and why you should care how much he plays or not. That’s a fair question, so I’ll take care of that part first.
If you have an extremely good memory (and watch an unnecessarily large amount of baseball), you’ll remember Profar as a player on the Willemstad, Curacao team that won the 2004 Little League World Series. The Rangers signed Profar out of Curacao in July of 2009 as a 16 year old. In the spring of 2010, he began his rapid ascent toward the major leagues, spending no more than one season at each level. (Stats below.) Even though he was young for each new level he was placed in, Profar kept putting up solid numbers and quickly rose up the lists of the best prospects in baseball. Profar’s talent was so evident that the Rangers made the unusual decision to call him up the big leagues directly from AA Frisco last September.
|Myrtle Beach (A)||2011||115||516||12||23||12.6||0.286||0.39||0.493||0.395|
I’ve never had the chance to watch him play in person, but I’ve read scouting reports that claim Profar projects as a future All-Star caliber shortstop with an elite glove and an above average bat. For those more comfortable with player projections in terms of scouting grades: 60 hit tool, 50 power, 60 speed, 60 arm, 80 glove. (An explanation of scouting grades is available over at my other project, 80 Grade Want for those who have no idea what any of that means.)
Scouts don’t apply projections with that level of optimism loosely. Because he plays a premium position and projected level of talent, it’s no surprised Profar ended up being ranked in the top 5 by all the relevant scouting services (Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, Baseball Almanac, ESPN’s Keith Law) prior to the 2012 season. After posting another solid set of stats at AA Frisco last season, Profar enters the 2013 season as the consensus #1 prospect in all of baseball and appears ready to become an everyday player in the big leagues.
The problem is that the Rangers don’t have anywhere to play him. At his natural position, shortstop, he is blocked by 2012 All-Star Elvis Andrus. Traditionally, a team deals with this problem by moving the young shortstop to either 2nd or 3rd base. Perennial All-Star Ian Kinsler happens to play 2nd base in Texas, and the Rangers have another All-Star, Adrian Beltre at 3rd.
Kinsler and Beltre are 30 and 34, respectively. They might benefit from spending a portion of their time as a designated hitter. However, this presents a new set of issues for the Rangers. Promising young 3rd base prospect Mike Olt has also reached the point in his development in which he needs to get a significant number of big league at-bats, but is also blocked at 3rd base by Beltre, so he will likely get a decent amount of at-bats as a DH. 1st basemen Lance Berkman and catcher A.J. Pierzynski are both at the age where they’ll need a fairly large number a games at DH as a rest from their usual fielding duties while keeping their bats in the lineup.
Olt began to encounter a similar problem to Profar’s last season, and ended up being shopped as trade bait in the Rangers’ pursuit of Zack Greinke leading up to the trade deadline. A natural 3rd baseman, Olt has started the process of learning how to play 1st base and the outfield. Because both of Profar’s alternate positions are also blocked, the Rangers’ only option is to try and trade him.
It seems foolish to trade the best prospect in baseball, but the players the Rangers acquire in return could help them make a deep run into the postseason. Take a look at the ZiPS projections for Texas’ Opening Day rotation:
With the exception of Yu Darvish, none of those guys are going to strike fear into the hearts of opposing lineups. Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis are both recovering from major arm surgeries and won’t return until later in the season. Even when they do come back, it’s likely they won’t be the same pitchers they were before their injuries. If the Rangers could trade Jurickson Profar for a controllable (enough years remaining on his contract to make it worthwhile) talented young pitcher, they could help themselves out a lot in the near future.
There are a plenty of teams that would be happy to take Profar off the Rangers’ hands. The problem lies in finding a team that has enough talent to send to Texas in exchange and would be willing to do so. For the purposes of this discussion, I eliminated all teams that have a shortstop prospect close to reaching the big league level. I then eliminated teams that have a shortstop at the major league level whom Profar would not be a major improvement over. Those teams would be unlikely to give up the caliber of players the Rangers would be willing to accept because Profar wouldn’t improve their teams enough immediately.
Quite a few teams have bad shortstops, but wouldn’t have the right type of players to trade for Profar even if they wanted to. I ended up narrowing it down to two teams that not only have a need for a shortstop, but have the pieces in place to trade for one as highly touted as Jurickson Profar.
The first is the Blue Jays. An ambitious franchise might be tempted to call Texas about Profar. (Major League GM’s call each other often, and I’d assume numerous GM’s have already called about Profar.) Yes, they already have Jose Reyes at short, but Profar would certainly be a better option than Maicer Izturis at 2nd base. Brandon Marrow is the closest starter Toronto has to fitting the Rangers’ needs at the moment. He’s a reliable middle of the rotation arm that is under team control until 2014 for a relatively cheap $7 million a year. I don’t think this would be enough, so possibly the Blue Jays would include young centerfielder Anthony Gose. This would help fill Texas’ other weakness following the departure of Josh Hamilton, a reliable centerfielder that can handle the bat. This could work, but if we’re playing a game of “Who Hangs Up First”, I think it’s the Rangers.
The other team that should be willing to make a home for Profar is the Cardinals. Rafael Furcal will be 36 this season his heath, as well as his numbers, has been in decline over the past few seasons. St. Louis’ other options, Ronny Cedeno and Pete Kozma, are basically Quad-A players and aren’t capable of adding any value to the lineup if they’re forced into action. Profar would be an immediate improvement at either shortstop or 2nd base for the Cardinals. Conveniently, St. Louis happens to have not one, but two highly rated pitching prospects that are major league ready: Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal. Most scouting reports I’ve seen on the say Miller has a high ceiling, but after seeing Rosenthal dominate out of the bullpen late last season I’d rather have him because at the very least he is capable of becoming a lights-out late inning weapon. The Rangers would likely take either Miller or Rosenthal and a package of lesser rated prospects for Profar. They might ask for all of the above depending on how much they value a prospect of Profar’s caliber. A trade involving these players wouldn’t be out of the question. It would solve the Cardinals’ middle infield issues and the Rangers would get at least one high-quality pitching prospect in return.
Editor’s Note: You can still expect to see Ryan Potter’s report on which rookies will make an impact this season in the near future.