As a Rangers fan I imagine I’m guiltier than most in my love for prospects. This was, of course, birthed from my more impressionable years as a baseball fan, when the team I invested my time and emotion into was so bad that I chose to attach my hopes to less-than-sure things who weren’t around yet to disappoint me. That mystery, the mystery that a prospect could someday turn into something, was my necessary escape from watching a trash major league club.
Even at that, back in the early 2000′s there weren’t very many flashy, high-aptitude players in the Rangers farm system. Aside impact prospects like Mark Teixeira or Hank Blalock, it was mostly crap. I mean, there was actually a time when Thomas Diamond, Edinson Volquez and John Danks were supposed to be the saviors of the franchise, with Eric Hurley on the way to fill in at the back of the rotation. Whoops.
As I’ve come to realize in 23 years of life — give or take 15 of those closely following the Rangers — best laid plans don’t always work out. In fact, most of the time they don’t. Or maybe that’s just me. Some prospects turn out to be cornerstones of the franchise, like Ian Kinsler, and others are like failed relationships: There’s a time you think they’ll materialize and everything will be magical forevermore, but they inevitably find a way to break your heart.
In 2013, just about everything that was once the Rangers (as we knew them) is dead. The major league team is 1.0 game behind the Tigers and Red Sox for the best record in the American League, and the farm system is thriving, flush with potential impact at the lower levels.
And no one is supposed to have more impact than 2013′s #1 prospect in baseball, 20 year-old Jurickson Profar.
I believe in his future like I believe in Yu Darvish‘s future: I think he is going to be one of MLB’s best players over the next decade. I’m likely exercising at least a fraction of bias since they’re both Rangers, but it’s hard to argue with the consensus of several intelligent talent evaluators who have scouted Jurickson over the last 3 years, and you’d just be a flat-out hater to the highest degree if you denied Darvish’s placement not only as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but as a TORP among TORPs.
With all praise given as deserved, I’m beginning to wonder if Jurickson Profar may better be suited for reduced action as we move down the stretch. Let’s look at some math:
By virtue of his .236/.304/.330 (71 wRC+) triple slash line, Profar’s production has been dipping at a fairly sizable rate in recent weeks.
In the 2nd half, where Jurickson has been an almost-everyday player, he hasn’t hit the ball with any authority to speak of, batting .239/.292/.299 (59 wRC+) with 2 extra-base hits (1 HR, 1 2B). On the season, he’s the only Ranger with any consistent playing time who is currently sub-replacement level (-0.4 fWAR).
The Rangers have had some clunkers this year, noticeably David Murphy (+0.6 fWAR in 408 PA’s) and Mitch Moreland (+0.7 fWAR in 385 PA’s), but it’s fair to say all this experience Jurickson Profar has received in the major leagues has come at a cost, at least in 2013. In an ideal world Profar wouldn’t be playing as much as he is, and I get that. But this season is going to come down to the wire with the Athletics, and as much as I love seeing my top prospect playing, my mind tells me I’d rather win the division, and I’m not sure Profar is the guy to take me there. Not this year, at least.
It’s my sincere hope that Lance Berkman returns soon, and fulfills the DH spot with his patented on-base ability, which at .355 — what it was in his 282 plate appearances — would be a significant 51-point upgrade on where Profar currently sits.
That is, of course, acknowledging that Lance can do much better than that when he returns. He could be the most subtle of secret weapons down the stretch. I firmly believe that.
Jurickson Profar, on the other hand, could use a breather. I’d love it if the Rangers clinched the division early and he could get his licks in in the last week of September, then it would just be icing on the cake. But if Berkman returns in a suitable fashion, the lineup should have its shape for the stretch run, with Profar returning to limited duty on the bench.
Addendum: Shame on you if the question mark in the headline made you want to click on this article.