***Here is the piece that originally ran on Texas Farm Review last month. You should just pony up for a subscription now, ya know, so you’re not a month late on stuff. www.texasfarmreview.com ***
JURICKSON PROFAR IS DEAD!
As a prospect, I mean. He’s dead.
I went out to the Soda Stadium on Monday morning for a matinee starring the Frisco Rough Riders and the San Antonio Missions. Aside from the usual weird shit that I seem to fixate on, the McAfee sponsored playground that was “closed for cleaning”, and the somewhat disconcerting vision of school busses unloading young field trippers from both the “Whitesboro” and “White Settlement” school districts, I went to see players. I go to my fair share of Riders games and watch many of them through the magic of MiLB TV (side note to MiLB- get more teams signed up for this wonderful invention), so I went somewhat well versed with the on field talent. I was interested to see Frisco starter Jake Brigham who has good stuff and flashed a kinda new change-up that had the scouts a buzz. I got a chance to see Fabio Castillo, once a member of the Rangers 40-man roster. Johan Yan who as a third baseman was to hitting what Richard Simmons is to restraint, pitched for only the second time in front of my own eyes. Brigham was great and I think he gets to the big leagues with his stuff, Castillo threw just 3 pitches, but I couldn’t evaluate him because my eyes were clouded by a player who may simply never live up to his potential. Yan was terrible, but it is easy to see why people like him. He threw 2/3 of an inning, blew a save, gave up 2 earned runs, 3 walks, a home run, and hit a batter. Told you he sucked that day. But he’s only really been pitching for 3 years and his ball weighs about 9 pounds when it gets to the batter. Unfortunately, if the ball is left up in the zone, it is deposited a little south of Prosper Texas. It is the glimpses of Yan’s potential that get real scouts, real writers, and interlopers like me, excited about minor league baseball.
Jurickson Profar doesn’t show glimpses anymore. He doesn’t flash the potential of what he can be. At this point glimpses and flashes are not his game. His game is a steady, constant display of talent. A locked-in, better-that-everyone-else-in-the-stadium, baseball ability that is on pointed display from the moment he walks out on the field to the moment he disappears into the dugout after another win. I watched the bulk of his at-bats in the 29 game hitting streak that ended on Sunday before the game I attended. He hits from both sides of the plate, with authority. He is balanced and preternaturally aware during his at-bats. He is the youngest player in Double-A baseball and has a profoundly ill-fitting uniform for his 6’1” 180-ish lb frame. He smiles a lot. Not an awkward, aw-shucks smile, but a well informed, this is what I was born to do smile. He jokes with the other team’s players marooned on second base, he smiles and acknowledges kids’ howls before the game. If it sounds like I’m glowing, it’s because I am. He isn’t a prospect, he’s the prospect. And it’s kinda boring now.
Scouts and writers talk about the “WOW” moment when a prospect does something great and how it energizes them to see the player putting it all together. Profar is very far from perfect and he is significantly behind the current Rangers shortstop, but he simply doesn’t flash “wow” anymore, he embodies it. On Monday he went 3-5 with a home run and two singles. The home run was to right field when the wind was blowing in and no one on either team hit the ball close to the warning track in that direction, one single was in the third and the other was with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, on the eighth pitch of the at bat, with the tying run on second. He drilled the ball to center scoring the tying run. In the 3rd inning he spun a remarkable double play that began with a ball deflected off the pitcher to the second baseman whose throw pulled Profar away from the base. His footwork around both the bag and the oncoming runner allowed his arm to uncork a strike to beat an admittedly slow runner to first for the always entertaining 1-4-6-3 double play. In the 5th inning with a 2-1 Missions lead, a boy named Jeudy got to second on a single and a sac bunt, the next batter lined a shot up the middle that Profar dove for and got such full extension that his sunglasses left their perch on the bill of his hat and landed 10 feet into right field, he popped up and again showed the arm that originally had scouts wondering if his future was in pitching. The advancing runner could only make it to third as Profar threw out the batter, and the next hitter grounded out to second to end the inning. Run saved with a Superman dive.
As I was driving to the game I was wondering if Buechele would give Profar a day off. It was a morning game before a scheduled day off and his 29 game hitting streak had ended the day before. Then I remembered he is 19 and incapable of being tired. He plays baseball for fun because he’s good at it and enjoys it. I have no idea if the thought of a day off even came up, but I’m glad it didn’t. I’ve seen many of his games and now I’ve seen his best game. He was the best and most complete player on the field by some margin. John Gibbons, who for four years managed the Toronto Blue Jays, manages the Missions. Aside from his desire to dicker with umps and a clear penchant for the post game spread, he wasn’t much of a presence during the game. Except when Profar made the diving stop in the 5th. Gibbons knew it cost his team an important run and he kicked and swung at the air, simultaneously, with disgust. It was frustration and acknowledgment of a game-changing play made by a game-changing young man.
I’m not normally one to unabashedly hype a youngster with wanton disregard for his shortcomings. But this time is different. Profar is conceivably the best prospect in all of baseball and he’s going to play for the Texas Rangers. It is rare that a player like this is property of your favorite team and he’s playing, most likely, for an entire season, in a park you can visit for 20 bucks. For me, however, and other dorks like me, he’s dead. Dead as a prospect. He’s a big leaguer with all-star potential, he’s a multi-millionaire, he’s a professional baseball player. He’s still working on some stuff, I guess, but on all my future visits to see the 2012 Frisco Rough Riders, I’m not really going to pay much attention to him. I anticipate Monday will be the last time my notebook is filled with Profar related scribbles. The redundancy of the word “good” is getting ridiculous. That’s not to say I won’t enjoy watching him. On the contrary, I’ll enjoy his play and presence even more. But please tell all of your Ranger friends that he’s coming. He’s getting there. He’s on his way. He’s bringing a bag full of charm and a bigger bag full of ability. He’ll likely be in Arlington in some capacity before he is legally allowed to buy beer, but he’ll be there. He’ll be there with a winning mentality that has been on eerily visible display since he was 12 years old. But for now, tell your friends to pay a few bucks to see him in Frisco. And good luck convincing them he’s still “a work in progress.”
As always, enjoy baseball.