Profar, So Good

13 games as the leadoff hitter.  

.389 average. .400 OBP.  21 hits.  12 runs.  13 game hit streak.  9 multi-hit games.

So far, so good.

Welcome back to the bigs, Jurickson Profar.

After a much publicized two full seasons away from MLB due to a shoulder injury, Jurickson Profar is back and living up to the expectations he once carried as the top prospect in all of baseball, which, until two weeks ago, felt like a distant memory.  

If he keeps up his current pace, or anything close to it, then the wait will have been well worth it.  

In his first stint with the Texas Rangers, Ron Washington attempted to utilize Profar as a super utility player, moving him all around the infield and getting him some playing time in left field.  The constant position changing proved to be too much for the then twenty year old, and he scuffled at the plate, hitting only .234 in in 324 plate appearances in 2013.  Profar often looked lost at the plate and began to appear discouraged as the struggles of being an everyday Major League player began to set in.

Those looks of discouragement are long gone, replaced by an electric smile that leaves no doubt that the kid is having fun, that he belongs, and that he is here to stay.

The question is; how does he stay?  How does Profar remain an everyday player and how does Banister work him into the lineup?  Upon his call up, the answer was easy with Profar playing second base while Odor was suspended.  Currently, Profar will be slotted in at third base through the weekend while Adrian Beltre is nursing a sore hamstring (side note, I would not at all be opposed to the Rangers going ahead and putting Adrian on the shelf for 15 days.  This is a long season and I would much rather rest him now to make sure he is fully healthy later in the year, because October could be very important for this squad.)

The obvious answer came when the lineup card for the June 7th game in Arlington against the Houston Astros was posted.  For the first time in his career, and after one day of practicing at the position, Jurickson Profar found himself penciled into his newly familiar leadoff spot, but this time, at first base.  He played splendidly, handling the position as if he had been there his entire life, even completing three highlight reel plays (we now know that Profar can do splits).

But preventing this from happening, there are two major road blocks which are normally penciled into the Rangers every day lineup:  Mitch Moreland and Prince Fielder.  The struggles of both have been well documented.  Prince is hitting .193 and has lost all of his power and is working to make changes to his swing to attempt to find some ability to hit for average, eliminating his leg kick for an abbreviated toe tap earlier this week after being “unplugged” from the lineup over the weekend by Banister.  Moreland is hitting .206, and while he does offer a plus glove at first base, Mitch has shown few signs of life at the plate, despite this being his free agent season after many years of being a key piece in many successful Texas Rangers seasons. (Because baseball works in mysterious ways, Moreland hit a ball 442 feet at the exact second I added the period to that last sentence.  I’m leaving it though, just because I will be the happiest guy on the planet if he proves me wrong)

The Rangers need to move on from someone.  At this point, moving Prince looks beyond unlikely, even though other teams who are trying to win this year are setting strong precedents by benching or releasing high paid players, such as Pablo Sandoval in Boston or Carl Crawford in Los Angeles.  I don’t see this happening with Texas and I don’t see anyone taking on Fielder unless Texas pays basically all of his contract, similar to what the Angels did to donate Hamilton’s remains back to the Rangers.  (By the way, remember a month ago when I wanted to attach Profar as a free add on to Fielder to get other teams to bite?  I am a moron).  

A number of people have stated that instead of making a move to open up playing time for Profar, that this moment is the right one to move him while the asking price is climbing back to a high point.  Here is the problem with that though:  he still has not proven that he can play shortstop every day post-shoulder surgery, his value is nowhere near where it was when he was deemed “untouchable” just four years ago, and if the Rangers are making that move, they are saying that they don’t believe that he will ever turn into the player they once thought he could be.  

This leads us to the most logical option: moving on from Mitch Moreland.  As a fan, I have always liked Moreland.  He seems like a great teammate, he has a great glove, he has solid baseball instincts that help with some of his shortcomings.  Mitch has been an important part of a great run, but it may be time to move on.  At this point, I don’t see how the Rangers can rationalize giving Moreland at bats over Profar moving forward (or Gallo, for that matter, but that is a different article for another day).  

Before we get further into this, I fully understand that the return for Moreland on the trade market is going to be basically nothing due to the combination of the lackluster performance this season and the fact his contract status makes him a short-term rental.  However, there are several teams who could use that very thing, with the New York Yankees currently having four first basemen on the disabled list and with the New York Mets grabbing James Loney off of the scrap heap to fill in after Lucas Duda was put on the shelf for the season.  Both of these teams, as well as a few others, could use the services of Mitch for the rest of 2016 and could help the Rangers make moves in order to put the best potential lineup on the field each day.  

As Profar continues to hit, continues to run, continues to field, and continues to smile, he will also continue to put pressure on Banister to find a way to get him into the lineup every single day.  The franchise is currently blessed with more depth than I can ever remember.  

What a wonderful problem Profar presents.