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What to do with Jurickson Profar?

April 6, 2013

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With Elvis Andrus recently signing an 8 year $120 million extension that keeps him in a Rangers uniform at least until 2018 (opt out clause at that time) but likely until 2020 the question I have is what will the Rangers do with Jurickson Profar? There appears to be 3 options for the club and below I will go over each one in detail.

1) Wait: I think this is the most likely scenario and to me it’s the worse case scenario. I think management is quite comfortable giving Profar a full season at AAA Round Rock while the major league club keeps Andrus at SS and Kinsler at 2B. Ron Washington stated he loves having two middle infield All-Stars on his roster and I would too as the middle of a team (C, SS, 2B, CF) is the hardest part of a team to replace yet every year the club keeps Profar in the minor leagues it reduces his value. He’s a great young prospect but if he’s stashed away in the minors for the next two seasons he will lose a lot of value as much of it comes from how good he is at his age. At 20 he’s an elite prospect but at 22 he will be less valuable as two years of potential usage will have been wasted at the minor league level for no benefit of the major league club. I know the fans at Round Rock would be happy but this would be the worst case scenario for Profar as he would become frustrated, the team would get no use out of him, and his value as a prospect would slowly decline.

2) Move Kinsler: Moving Kinsler to a position other than 2B brings up interesting discussions about WAR, cumulative stats vs. individual ones, and other topics that many fans don’t care to learn and puts position switch by Kinsler into “baseball geek” territory. I won’t delve too far into this but the short argument is simply that Kinsler with a line of .256 .340 .790 25 HR 25 SB (his two year averages from 2011-2012) is far less valuable at 1B or LF than he would be at 2B. Some fans can’t wrap their brain around this fact as Kinsler is Kinsler no matter where he lines up but the reality is that Kinsler’s value is as a second baseman who has elite power (30 HRs for a 2B is rare) and base stealing abilities to go along with very good range defensively. His one flaw is with his consistency as a ball handler as most of his errors come from messing up routine plays and occur not from getting to a ball but in the exchange between the glove and his hand. His errors can be difficult to watch at times but still the reality is he’s at least an above average defender at 2B and when you add his elite speed and power for the position it’s easy to make the case that he’s one of the 3 best 2B in baseball. From 2008-2011 he was 1st or 2nd in WAR among second baseman and even in a down season in 2012 he was still 7th at the position. His combination of power, base stealing, and range defensively makes him an elite player at 2B yet those qualities would be far less valuable at LF and even less so at 1B. WAR stands for wins above replacement and takes into account the “average” player at each position. At 2B the average player (30 MLB players starting the most games the past 3 years) has an OPS of .763 which Kinsler has exceeded every year of his career except last year in 2012 aka he’s above average and would have a positive WAR. At 1B the average player has an OPS of .859 which Kinsler has been below every year of his career except his 2008 season aka he’s a below average 1st baseman and would consistently have a negative WAR. I could delve into more specifics but I feel like that proves my point and will reduce the tired head of some readers so essentially it comes down to the fact that Kinsler at 2B is a very good player deserving of an 8 figure a year contract but Kinsler moved to 1B is just another guy and a mediocre 1st baseman who isn’t deserving of even half of what his contract will have him at. While I’ve heard the talk that Kinsler moving to 1B or LF makes sense the stats show this would dramatically hurt Kinsler’s value and it wouldn’t be a positive to the ballclub overall. It’d be better to trade Kinsler than change his position.

3) Trade Profar: This in my opinion is the best move to make as keeping him at AAA hurts his value, gives no value to the major league club, frustrates him, and risks the chance of injury or a slump in productivity all of which would negatively affect his value as a prospect. Also moving Kinsler to another position would get Profar on the field but overall wouldn’t help the ballclub as any slight boost Profar could give to the team at 2B vs. Kinsler would be more than mitigated by the decrease in value Kinsler’s move to LF or 1B would have. The best scenario is to get value for Profar by trading him so the question then becomes who should the Rangers target? They could target a high end veteran in the prime of their career like David Price with Profar being the key player in a package of prospects. They could target an even younger player like 23 year old corner outfielder Gioncarlo Stanton who is still under “team control” until 2017 and due to being  arbitration eligible in 2014 could be a trade target as the cost conscious Marlins are always looking to dump salary. Or they could trade Profar straight up for another elite prospect that plays a different position. Profar is currently the #1 prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 list for 2013. Just to make life simple we could look at the other 4 prospects in the Top 5 of that list and determine whether they fit or not. Of the other 4 prospects, 2 are pitchers (Dylan Bundy for the Orioles and Jose Fernandez of the Marlins) and the other 2 are outfielders (Oscar Tevaras for the Cardinals and Will Myers of the Rays). The most widely discussed trade is Profar for Tevaras as the Cardinals have a need at shortstop and with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz set to hit free agency next year the Rangers will have a need for a corner outfielder in 2014. No matter who the Rangers target I like the idea of trading Profar as with him as the centerpiece of a package they could add an ace caliber pitcher like Price and change their ballclub to a dominant pitching one with a top 4 (Price, Darvish, Harrison, Holland) that matches up well with any rotation, they could add an All-Star caliber corner outfielder like Gioncarlo Stanton or Jason Heyward to solidify a position for years to come, or they could gamble and simply switch prospects so they would have a stud young prospect ready to play at a position not blocked by an established veteran. All are better scenarios than the current one they have with the #1 prospect in baseball just wasting away in AAA.

Conclusion: With the ink barely dry on Andrus’ 8 year extension it’s understandable why management sent Profar to AAA Round Rock. They will need time to discuss strategy and scout other teams’ players in whatever trade they decide to do yet it’s important for them not to take too much time as Profar’s value in my opinion, can only go down from where it is and it’s in the best interest of everyone to act now. The Rangers are in a unique setting where there are no gaping holes on their major league roster yet they have the biggest trade chip in all of baseball. They can use it to re-shape the roster in whatever way they want and I personally would love to see it spent on pitching as adding a true ace to go along with Darvish, who I already consider an ace, would put Texas on par with the Giants who have won 2 World Series the past 3 years. It’s a blueprint that’s worth copying and trading Profar and a few mid level prospects for David Price would bring the Rangers rotation in line with the Giants at the top of the league.

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