Yesterday, I talked a little bit about one half of Texas's shortstop equation in Elvis Andrus. I mentioned that I'm of the belief that Andrus's contract can actually give the Rangers some flexibility moving forward. Today, I wanted to talk about the other half of that equation: Jurickson Profar.
Profar, of course, was once the top prospect in baseball. It was an unfortunate distinction in that it came during the season in which Mike Trout used a rookie campaign to take over baseball, meaning expectations for Profar immediately shot through the roof.
By the time the 2013 season was over, the front office felt comfortable enough with going forward with Profar as the everyday second baseman and traded Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder. Then, Profar proceeded to miss the next two seasons due to a recurring shoulder injury that eventually required surgery to finally heal properly.
Now that he's back in swing of things, Profar is once again playing at shortstop. Rougned Odor has seemingly solidified himself as the second baseman, with some believing he'll be the best at the position as early as this season. Furthermore, there has been some thought that the throwing angle at shortstop might be more natural for Profar.
In any case, over at the DMN site, a transcript of some audio of Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine was posted from an appearance with our friends on the Ben & Skin Show over at 105.3. During the segment, Levine talked a bit about Profar and the expectations the organization has set out for him. Of note:
"The bat looks terrific, the game instincts are off the charts, which is the thing we always thought was going to carry him to being a great player. And defensively he's starting to feel more comfortable out there. I think we look at it as, wherever he starts the year, he has a chance to come up and impact our team at some point this season."
The assumption has long been that the best thing for Profar in 2016 would be to spend majority of 2016 -- or at least until September call-ups -- at Triple-A Round Rock to get acclimated to playing again on an everyday basis. This is the first time I've seen anyone from inside the Rangers organization address any sort of expectation of Profar contributing to the Major League team in 2016, and that's interesting for several reasons.
First, it would seem to indicate that there's a strong confidence that Jurickson's shoulder issues are a thing of the past. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it might just signify that if Elvis Andrus struggles to once again put together a full season, there could be some playing time available.
Now perhaps I'm reading too much into it. I've seen the idea thrown around of perhaps throwing Profar into the outfield mix once again, but I think at this point, Texas is content with having him stick at shortstop and seeing what happens from there.
And as much of a fan of Elvis Andrus as I am, I could certainly envision a scenario where Profar having a month or two of success in Round Rock coupled with corresponding sub-replacement level production from Andrus could force the organization to make a change.
That's not a scenario I want to see happen. Ideally, both players shine brightly at their respective levels. Then, at the end of the season, Texas can take calls on both players. If there are takers for Andrus and his contract, plus a confidence that Profar can handle the position full-time, by all means, you make the move to address some other area of weakness (maybe a catcher?). Or perhaps it's Profar that ends up moved to merit a sexier package in return.
Either way, both players performing at a high level in 2016 is the best scenario for all involved. And if that happens, and if we're to assume that Levine's comments about Profar impacting the team at some point this season were 100 percent his opinion, then where is Profar making that impact?
I would imagine Texas would be hesitant to try him in any kind of super-utility role again like they did in 2013, so I'd have to believe that's off the table. The current outfield situation may end up being even more crammed upon Josh Hamilton's return, and with Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson waiting in the wings, the outfield really doesn't make sense anymore. We've already talked about second base. Profar isn't taking time away from Adrian Beltre at third base, and I've never seen him mentioned as having even worked at first base.
So, with all of that said, the only thing I can draw from this is that perhaps Elvis Andrus really is being put on notice: Get it together, or be replaced, contract be damned.
But I'm probably just reading too much into this.