For everything that minor league baseball lacks, and it lacks in just about everything, it makes up for with absurdly entertaining baseball. Plus, it’s the only place where one can see the mascot for the San Antonio Missions, named Ballapeno, doing the dougie. Seriously, that happened. What it doesn’t lack, however, is a slew of tomorrow’s major league stars. Last night, I tuned into the Missions taking on the Frisco Roughriders (hence the dancing jalapeno pepper) to get another look at the loaded Texas Rangers’ farm system. Today, I’ll specifically discuss 19-year-old Jurickson Profar. Why? Recently Fangraphs and ESPN conducted their second annual Franchise Player Drafts and the young shortstop was selected in both drafts. So, let’s look at Profar and then talk some fantasy baseball.
Often fans accuse evaluators of relying too heavily on a prospect’s age-relative-to-league (ARL), especially when ranking a teen. Sometimes just holding one’s own against older competition is enough to excite prospectors but not fantasy owners. Understandable. No one needs to cite or hide behind ARL to praise or defend Profar, owner of a wRC+ of 135 and a slash line of .291/.363/.491 in Double-A. Again, he’s 19! Coming into the season, if Profar wasn’t listed just after Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Matt Moore on a prospect list it was cause to dismiss it. He’s that good.
Though, no one really debates how valuable Profar is going to be. As far as prospects go, he’s undoubtedly a stud. But, some fantasy owners have concerns. The biggest issue surrounding Profar is entirely outside his control. Of course, I’m talking about logjam the Rangers have up the middle. It’s almost impossible to envision 75 million dollar man Ian Kinslar being moved and Profar certainly will not be traded. That leaves Elvis Andrus. Andrus’s tenure with the team will likely have to end for Profar to assume his position atop the keystone. When does that happen? Andrus is only 23 years old and recently signed a $14.4M deal through 2014. I jokingly predicted it would be this season, but I can’t seriously predict the Rangers trading the guy Mike Newman just took 11th overall in the aforementioned Fangraphs draft. This has to concern fantasy owners. Will Jurickson have to change positions? When will he make his debut? Given the unlikelihood the Rangers could move Kinsler’s sizable contract, Jon Daniels’s likely desire to maximize his assets, and the organization’s growing payroll, I could foresee Andrus being traded to fill organizational needs and make room for Profar in that not-so-distant future. Andrus’s value is extremely high given his ability and contract, so it wouldn’t be crazy for the team to move him as early as next trading deadline. The heir to Derek Jeter? The guy who moves Starlin Castro off short? Would the Mets move one of their big arms? There would be two dozen teams vying for his services. At least.
Anyway, what you really want to know is how Profar will hit. Will there be power? Will there be speed? For now, let’s assume he’ll be the Rangers’ shortstop. Slotting a guy like Profar into the Rangers’ star laden lineup isn’t fair because his ability to get on base is outstanding. He’s going to score well over hundred runs a year atop that lineup. Where does this ability come from, you ask? Profar has unbelievable pitch recognition and bat control for his age and international pedigree. At the plate Profar has a clear plan and his selectivity and patience is palatable. He is a switch hitter and has no qualms with lining the ball the other way from either side of the plate. In game action, he does have a tendency to lower his front shoulder and dive into the ball, especially from the right side. As he matures, he’ll trust him eyes and hands more and when he does, watch out. He’ll hit close to or above .300 annually for your fantasy team.
Batting Average? Well above average. Runs? Elite.
The big questions, however, relate to power and steals. For the next several years Profar will be growing. As you can see in the video below, he has a slight build but his shoulders and back do appear room for growth. He isn’t a typical power hitter, but he’s already hitting line drives out of the park. Plus, due to his great contact ability and selectivity his power will play up. In a stadium like Arlington don’t be surprised if he matures into 20 to 25 more home runs. Prior to this year I wouldn’t have pegged him for more than 15 home runs, but his ability to keep his hands back and drive the ball has really impressed me in 2012.
Profar has good speed, I’ve consistently clocked him from home to first at 4 seconds flat. In the minors he’s shown the ability to steal bags and it’s also a good sign Ron Washington hasn’t put the breaks on Andrus. Jurickson’s on base ability will give him ample opportunity to get steals. In large part due to Washington’s treatment of Andrus, I’d expect Profar to be in the 15 to 20 steals range with big upside for more.
As a fantasy prospect, Profar projects to do everything well at a premium position. Adding him to the best offense in a great offensive park will only bolster his production. For a great look at Profar, watch the video below Bullpen Banter’s Steve Fiorindo shot during spring training.