The star of Texas Rangers spring training hasn’t been at the Surprise Recreation Campus since late February.
Profar has helped the Netherlands advance to the WBC semifinals by batting a robust .522 (12 for 23) in six games in Korea and Japan. He opened the WBC with a homer and has four RBIs, six runs and five doubles all while playing an entirely new position, center field.
The Rangers have been watching closely and have liked everything, including the switch-hitter’s at-bats against right-handed pitchers. Not even the jammed left middle finger was a bother.
Back in Arizona, the media has asked if Profar can serve as the backup in center field (answer: in a pinch). In asking if Drew Robinson can make the team as a lefty-hitting first baseman, Profar fits into the answer. While noting that Delino DeShields is off to a strong start and might to be staking claim to time in left field, Profar fits into that answer, too.
“He’s been good, man,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “The quality of the at-bats has been very good. He has a finish to his swing. He’s shown a little more power. He’s showing his natural instincts in the outfield. Listen, it’s exhibition baseball over a couple weeks, but it’s about all you ask could for.”
Others have also made a favorable impression so far this spring. Here’s a look at the stars of Rangers camp who are actually in Rangers camp:
Matt Bush: The hard-throwing reliever has had no problems whatsoever setting down opposing hitters, whether in the Cactus League, B games or in the minors. His velocity is already nearing 100, and his off-speed pitches have been unfair at times to overmatched hitters.
He is able to perform despite media distractions, primarily HBO’s “Real Sports,” and seems well-equipped to thumb his nose at the sophomore slump.
Keone Kela: Another hard-throwing reliever, this right-hander had rolled through his outings with the same ease as Bush and with just a touch less velocity but with similarly effective breaking pitches.
Kela, whose sophomore season in 2016 was hampered by an early elbow surgery, looks as if he has recaptured the form that won him a key spot in the bullpen in 2015.
0.00 Combined ERA of right-handers Matt Bush and Keone Kela this spring, including appearances in B games and minor-league games
Delino DeShields: Speaking of recapturing his 2015 form, DeShields has the look of the disruptive offensive sparkplug who helped ignite the Rangers’ offense in the second half en route to the American League West crown.
He is back to his stubborn approach at the plate and has regained the step lost while built like a linebacker in 2016. He’s bidding for time in left field.
Carlos Gomez: The reason DeShields is competing for time in left field rather than in center field is because of Gomez, who is the center fielder and likely leadoff man.
He entered the off day Thursday batting .381 with a .440 on-base percentage and .810 slugging percentage as five of his eight hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles, two homers). He’s also scored a team-high eight runs. Not bad.
Yu Darvish: For those who look at these things weeks out from the regular season, as the media does, Darvish is lined up to start on Opening Day, and it would be hard to argue based on his early spring performance.
His velocity has topped out at 97 mph. His slider has been devastating. Fastball command isn’t far off. He is also of the proper mind-set of needing to work more efficiently.
11 Strikeouts for Yu Darvish this spring in eight innings
Mike Hauschild/Dillon Gee: Two right-handers who need to pitch their way onto the roster are making a case for themselves. The Rangers like how Hauschild attacks the strike zone and how all of his pitches move. Gee has experience and knows how to get his outs.
Each also has contract status — Hauschild is a Rule 5 pick, Gee has an out clause in his minor-league deal — that could force the Rangers to keep them.
Joey Gallo: The young slugger isn’t likely to make the Opening Day roster despite showing well defensively in left field and at the plate.
Gallo is also impressing with the mature way he is going about his business. He has a routine and a plan each day, he is handling the down times better than ever, and he has an awareness of what it will take for him to be a big-leaguer.
Drew Robinson: The super utility man is making an impression in his first big-league camp. He plays every position except pitcher and catcher.
Some believe he’s one of the Rangers’ best defensive outfielders despite being drafted as an infielder. He also has power from the left side and speed. The question with Robinson is if he would be better served playing every day in the minors.