March 24, 2013

Jurickson Profar likely to open season at Triple A

The Rangers want baseball’s top prospect to continue his development by playing every day.

On the final Sunday of the longest spring, shortstop Elvis Andrus was rested after playing three straight games and was replaced in the Texas Rangers’ lineup by baseball’s top prospect.

Jurickson Profar is still in big-league camp, his first, and will stay with the club through its trip to San Antonio for a pair of games Friday and Saturday.

Then, barring something out of the blue, Profar will make the 100-mile drive north to Round Rock to get a feel for the city where he will likely start his 2013 season.

The numbers don’t add up for Profar making the Rangers’ Opening Day roster this year. He hasn’t done anything this spring to suggest he can’t play in the majors right now, but he also isn’t going to unseat the All-Stars at the two positions he plays.

The expectation is that he will be with the big-league club at some point soon, maybe to stay. But he’s OK with the plan that’s almost certainly in store for him, to continue his development as an everyday player at Triple A rather than as a big-league bench player.

“I’m just trying to get ready for the season wherever I go,” Profar said. “Whatever they think is better for me, I’ll be ready for it.”

The Rangers haven’t completely ruled out Profar to be in Houston on Sunday as their utility infielder/backup shortstop. There is still a desire to find a way to get him on the field two or three times a week and get him enough at-bats to not stunt his development.

But the prevailing sentiment is that Profar is an everyday player and a future star, so he needs to be playing every day at Triple A until regular playing time is available with the Rangers.

“We haven’t made a final determination yet,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “It’s just a matter of determining if the timing is right and the role is right. He’s going to be a good player.”

No one doubts that, and they also all agree that Profar has improved this spring. He hasn’t liked his on-field results (.244 average, five RBIs, seven walks, 10 strikeouts, two errors, entering Sunday), but he has made significant strides watching and learning.

The biggest obstacle facing him, or any young player, is trying to slow the game down. He still has work to do there, but he is playing under control and having quality at-bats.

Profar, who turned 20 last month, isn’t the kid he seemed to be while making his major-league debut in September.

“Seeing him last year and seeing him now, he’s growing, he’s becoming a young man,” manager Ron Washington said. “His instincts are pretty good for a kid who just turned 20 years old. He has an awareness; that’s what separates him from a lot of players out there.

“I’ve seen him improve tremendously, and there’s still a lot of improvement to be made because he hasn’t played a ton of baseball. The more baseball you play, that’s where you start filling in those blank pages.”

Profar recognizes that he has made too many mistakes this spring. Take, for instance, a sequence in Friday’s game when he was playing second base and was late covering first on a bunt. Everyone was safe in what became a nine-run inning for Colorado.

Other mistakes haven’t been as visible, but he wants to get them ironed out.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Profar said. “Playing-wise I could do a better job. The situations of the game I’ve made some mistakes, but I can learn from that.”

It seems apparent that he will do some learning this season at Triple A. But he’ll be waiting for a phone call from Arlington.

“You just go out there and play,” Profar said. “If I go there, I will be happy. If not, I’ll feel the same.”

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