They still call, asking about Jurickson Profar.
But no longer is he the gem that catches every team’s eye, the can’t-miss prospect that every team covets most.
Profar was just 19 in 2012 when he made his debut for the Texas Rangers by hitting a home run in Cleveland in his first major league at-bat.
The introduction was accompanied by trumpets. Every major publication and website that ranks baseball’s young prospects – Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, among them – listed Profar as No. 1.
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The club cleared the way for his full-time arrival by trading Ian Kinsler to Detroit before the 2014 season.
But Rangers fans know what happened after that. A shoulder injury and eventual surgery caused Profar to miss two full seasons.
His once-shining star is only visible by telescope this spring, as Profar fights to win a regular job in left field.
As Jeff Banister makes his lineup every night, or we're deciding on the roster, we're not thinking about a player’s prospect status in 2012.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels
But as general manager Jon Daniels pointed out Friday, Profar is still only 24 years old.
“He’s a good player,” Daniels said. “As Jeff Banister makes his lineup every night, or we’re deciding on the roster, we’re not thinking about a player’s prospect status in 2012. It’s ‘Can he help us win?’
“And the answer is yes.”
The problem is that Profar’s ledger remains suspiciously incomplete. Even last year, after an impressive start filling in for Rougned Odor, Profar seemed to stop hitting in August and September (a .141 batting average for the final two months).
Once considered prime trade bait, Profar now has to be viewed as a roll of the dice.
“Yeah, we get asked,” he said. “We engage and have those conversations.
“He’s still extremely young. He can do a number of things on the field. If we didn’t have him, we’d be looking for somebody like him.”
While Profar was missing the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Rangers signed shortstop Elvis Andrus to a $120-million contract running through 2023, and Odor vaulted from Double-A to put his teeth on the starting second base job.
No one seems to doubt that Profar is athletic enough to play a corner outfield spot regularly. But his power numbers over his professional career still look like an infielder’s.
He's a good player. He's going to get a chance to show that.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels
“He’s in a little bit of a challenging spot,” Daniels said. “The positions he’s most naturally suited for, that he played growing up, are taken by good players. He’s going to get a chance in the outfield. I think the bat plays. When he gets regular at-bats, he hits.
“We talk at some of our meetings about certain guys being a change of scenery guy, but why does that change of scenery have to be somewhere else? What can we do to wrap our arms around our guys and create that environment, a new challenge, a fresh perspective here?
“It’s a new year, a new opportunity. He’s a good player. He’s going to get a chance to show that.”
The biggest difference this spring is that Profar finally had the benefit of a normal, no-injury-rehab off-season.
The shoulder issue? There no longer is one. The Rangers are showing that by playing him in the outfield.
Once upon a time, though, adding Profar to a trade could have sweetened a deal for almost anybody.
His star is still out there. You just need a telescope.