Jurickson Profar wasn’t going to make the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster this year, not after a lost season in 2014 because of a shoulder muscle that wouldn’t stop tearing.
But the thought was that baseball’s top prospect in 2013, the player the Rangers refused to trade during the disastrous 2012 off-season, would play in the majors at some point in 2015 after making up for lost time at Triple A.
Of course, he had to stay healthy, and on Thursday the Rangers announced that he couldn’t.
Now, 2015 could also be lost after the latest in a series of routine MRI exams showed another muscle strain and led team physician Dr. Keith Meister to throw up his arms in surrender. After three failed attempts to avert surgery with rehabilitation, Profar will be cut on Monday and could miss a second straight season.
General manager Jon Daniels had to field the tough questions about if the Rangers are second-guessing themselves for the way they handled their prized prospect, and why they didn’t push harder for surgery after the first and second setbacks, and what he believes the future holds for Profar.
The usually optimistic Daniels couldn’t offer much to rally behind. It’s hard to blame him. The can’t-miss kid, who could have fetched Justin Upton or James Shields three off-seasons ago, is fading away and his future is uncertain.
“Tough question to answer,” Daniels said. “First of all, we’ve got to get him healthy. My expectation is, if the doctor says the surgery went well and he recovers, he’s going to come back and be the same player he was with the same skill set.
“He’s missed at least a year and a half of reps. He’s going to have to play. Guys have missed long periods of time before. He’s not going to have lost his ability to play the game.”
The latest theory on Profar’s shoulder is that a labrum injury dating to 2010 is finally causing the shoulder instability that has sacked him. The surgery will fix the labrum and anything else Meister determines is in need of repair.
If the labrum is all that Meister touches, Profar could be back late in the season. If more extensive work is done, goodbye, 2015.
That would mean more than 1,000 missed at-bats for the player who was the Rangers’ starting second baseman this time a year ago. And it’s not like the last time he played in the majors, in 2013, was a wild success filled with regular playing time.
“There’s going to be some straight-up playing time that needs to be made up,” Daniels said.
Profar turns 22 on Friday, a major cause for any Rangers optimism, so it’s not like he would be a journeyman trying to return from two lost seasons. But his youthful enthusiasm might have gotten the best of him this time.
Meister and other top orthopedists recommended surgery in September, but Profar wanted to give an ultra-conservative rehab another chance because he didn’t want to miss this season.
Things were going well. He had reached 105 feet in his throwing program before the latest MRI. But that barrier is where he broke down in September, and he couldn’t get past it yet again.
Daniels called Profar’s choice “a very personal decision.” There were many baseball people who weighed in, Daniels said, but the player made the final decision.
“It’s his body and ultimately his call on some level,” Daniels said. “We wanted to make sure he had as much information as possible and that our people had as much information as possible to advise him correctly.
“This isn’t Tommy John. There are shades of gray in this one. He made the decision. He backed it up by putting the work in. The throwing was going well. It’s just one of those things. … Now we’ll get him healthy.”
But it might be until 2016 before he returns, and the Rangers can’t say for sure if he will be the player they believed he would be in 2012 or if he will even be a fit on their roster.
Rougned Odor appears to be firmly entrenched at second base, and the Rangers won’t try to trade Elvis Andrus’ mother lode of a contract until they know Profar is healthy enough to play shortstop.
“You’ve got to go with the best-laid-plans mentality,” Daniels said. “To speculate beyond that I don’t think is fair to him.”
Maybe not, but the player the Rangers speculated would be an All-Star at second base is now facing another missed season.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760