A disclaimer up top: this has nothing to do with talent.
Jurickson Profar was the unanimous top prospect entering the 2013 season. And I mean unanimous. Rarely does this happen and Profar was being hailed as the prospect of a lifetime.
The Rangers were obviously thrilled with the turnout of their 2009 Curaçao signing. Texas GM Jon Daniels has had his ups and downs, but there’s no arguing his grip on the international free agent market.
If the hype weren’t big enough, Profar’s very first Major League at-bat as a 2012 September call-up saw the ball leave the park. If Twitter was big then, imagine the fire around this kid.
He even singled in his plate appearance during the 2012 Wild Card Playoff game. Hype.
The only problem facing Profar and the Rangers falls under the ol’ “good one to have” category. Unfortunately, the situation turned out as horribly as it possibly could.
Heading into 2013, future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre was entrenched at third base. Elvis Andrus wasn’t moving off of short and just signed an 8-year/$120 million extension. That rendered All-Star Ian Kinsler replaceable.
A homegrown talent in his own right, Kinsler rejected a move to first base and would play the entire season with the club, blocking Profar and actually sending the 20-year old phenom to left field for the first time in his career.
That off-season, the Rangers were able to deal Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder, Fielder’s bloated contract and some money to relieve it. Regardless, Fielder was injury plagued for the entirety of 2014.
This sort of opened a door for Profar —not at any of his four positions (2B, 3B, SS and LF) but at first base and DH. There were at-bats. But as Ranger luck would have it, Profar got hurt too.
Expected to be out until mid-June, Profar’s highly anticipated return to the Rangers was not to be. His rehab didn’t go according to plan and he would end up spending the full season on the disabled list.
This opened the door for Rougned Odor, who added to the whole “good problem to have” dilemma. Because he ran away with the second base job. To be fair, he stumbled out of the gate after jumping from Double-A to the bigs and would spend some time to season in Triple-A, but he claimed second base for himself while the former top prospect Profar could only watch.
It turns out that Profar’s shoulder pain originated from a labrum injury, which was torn. He missed 2015. Odor hit 16 homers.
Come 2016, Profar was healthy but blocked everywhere. He nevertheless played but did it without any consistency. He made appearances at first base (17), second (19), third (25), shortstop (11) and left field (14).
Once the most coveted asset in the entire league, he was a utility player hitting .239.
It’s a sad descent that faced some inevitable intangible variables. He got hurt. It happens. Tangibly though, Texas could have had anyone they wanted for the top prospect back in 2013.
You don’t begrudge the team for hoarding Profar and his limitless potential. There’s pride in his development. He’s yours. But with Tampa Bay apparently willing to deal ace David Price straight-up for him and seeing as... 1. he was blocked at every position 2. you’re already a contender 3. this makes you an even greater World Series threat... it made too much sense. (Things that do usually don’t happen.)
The Rangers ironically repeated the same mistake in 2015 by holding onto Joey Gallo. They did it again before the 2016 season. His value was sky high and he wasn’t going to play third base (Beltre...good problem). Rather, Texas waited it out and saw his value plummet, instead trading Lewis Brinson in a regrettable deal.
If Milwaukee would have taken Gallo, they would have taken Gallo. The market — just like Profar’s a year prior— had gone dry.
Which brings us to 2017 and a non-Rangers variable. This past off-season the Red Sox made waves by trading Yoan Moncada —a Profar-class prospect —as well as fellow blue chipper Michael Kopech and one more to the White Sox for Chris Sale.
You see the similarities here. Moncada was blocked at both middle infield positions by Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Sure, he could have played third base but to get Chris Sale (who just reached 200 strikeouts faster than anyone in baseball history) it would take Moncada.
So they did the deal. Chris Sale is dominating as envisioned and Moncada got the call on Tuesday. Rafael Devers waits to claim third base at Fenway while Bogaerts is an All-Star and Dustin Pedroia is Dustin Pedroia. Meanwhile, Moncada’s debut Wednesday inspired nearly 5,000 Chi Sox to purchase walk-up tickets. Everybody appears to have won here.
Except the Rangers. Who are playing below .500 baseball and have Jurickson Profar collecting dust at Triple-A Round Rock. He still has nowhere to play and while Daniels is no doubt getting calls on him every day, I can only imagine the low ball offers he’s listening to.
Prospects are a cautionary tale. The tale of Profar/Price Vs. Moncada/Sale is one to always remember.