Rangers ponder when Profar's bright future will arrive

Posted Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- One player this past off-season created more of a stir than any other associated with the Texas Rangers.

It wasn't Josh Hamilton, who ditched a team that has been to the playoffs three straight years for a third-place division rival, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and $125 million.

Zack Greinke, Justin Upton, James Shields and Michael Young are also also-rans to the No. 1 off-season Rangers storyline:

What to do with Jurickson Profar?

Profar was one of the 63 players who participated Saturday in the Rangers' first full-squad workout of spring training.

He is considered baseball's next can't-miss player, topping every notable prospect ranking. Every other team wants him, and he is viewed by many a must-have in the 2013 Rangers lineup.

Great angst was expressed from the fan base when the Rangers decided to not reinvent their infield to give Profar a place to play. But club officials did consider pushing a three-time All-Star second baseman to first.

All of that was caused by a shortstop who has never played Triple A, has never batted above .286 at any of his three minor-league stops, and is listed in the media guide at 165 pounds.

And he's 19, at least for a few more days.

The thing is, many in the organization and around the game believe Profar is worth all the hype.

"He definitely is," said Mike Olt, Profar's teammate at Double A Frisco last year and the Rangers' No. 2 prospect. "He's fun to watch. He's the real deal. He's not about stats. For being 19 years old and knowing the game as well as he does, that's tough to find."

Rangers scouts look at Profar's .281 average at Double A last year as a plus, because he was a 19-year-old hitting .281 at Double A. Included was a 29-game hitting streak and 50 straight games reaching base.

He has an advanced plate approach, which produced a .368 on-base percentage. The switch-hitter hit for equal pop from each side of the plate, and scouts believe there will be more power as he ages.

But the talent doesn't jump out at people as it does with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

Profar isn't going to pile up the stolen bases or even be the threat that Elvis Andrus is. Though he is considered a plus-defender at premium positions up the middle, his arm isn't the strongest in the organization at his position and isn't as good as Andrus'.

Profar separates himself from the rest of the prospect field, and is pushing for a regular spot in the majors, because of the intangibles that he possesses.

The Rangers see someone who oozes confidence and isn't afraid to take on challenges, like skipping High A ball and emerging as one of the best players in Double A.

There isn't much on a baseball field that does scare him, similar to Andrus in 2009. Profar certainly didn't look intimidated in his first big-league at-bat, hitting a home run at Cleveland.

He's coachable, knows the game and can anticipate what's going to happen next.

He's a winner, and always has been. Profar guided Curacao to back-to-back appearances in the Little League World Series, and his three minor-league teams have gone 202-151.

"He's not a complete tool-shed player, but he's an extremely instinctive player," said Don Welke, a senior special assistant to general manager Jon Daniels. "He loves challenges and can meet the challenges. He's done it wherever he's been."

The challenge he faces next is making the Rangers' roster this spring, and it won't be easy. The Rangers decided to keep their 2012 infield intact, leaving no opening for Profar at shortstop or second base.

He can be the utility man, if the Rangers believe that there will be an opportunity for him to play at least 80 games. That doesn't seem likely without an injury or a trade.

But contrary to what many believe, manager Ron Washington will play Profar if there is a spot for him.

"I just want to be here," said Profar, who turns 20 on Wednesday. "I'll do whatever I can to just be here."

There is a faction in the organization that believes Triple A would serve Profar well. Though he is listed at just 165 pounds, he said he weighs 189. But some look at him and wonder whether he is strong enough to survive the physical demands of a big-league season.

Despite the general consensus that a .281 average in Double A by a 19-year-old is impressive and Olt's assertion that Profar is better than his numbers, some want to see Profar hit .300 in the minors.

"He thinks he belongs," Welke said.

So does much of the industry. Every team that talked trade with the Rangers over the off-season wanted Profar. The Rangers didn't want to deal him, and that's why Upton ended up with Atlanta and Shields is now in Kansas City.

The Rangers spent the off-season looking at ways to get Profar on the Opening Day roster. They're still looking, by the way, because of a player they believe is worth all the hype.

"In all of our discussions we're trying to figure out how many winning, championship-caliber baseball players can we put on the roster that have functional roles and can help us win," Daniels said. "Based on things we've seen, organizationally we feel like he fits that description."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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