Jurickson Profar is MLB’s finest obtainable free agent. The place may it finish?

In 2013, a still-teenage Jurickson Profar was MLB’s high prospect and one among baseball’s most coveted gamers. Quick ahead a decade, and regardless of spending a number of weeks as one of the best obtainable free agent, Profar can not seem to discover a group that desires him.

It is no secret that participant improvement in baseball is not linear, however Profar’s path to getting up to now has been bumpy, to say the least.

Profar’s profile as a prospect was based mostly much less on overwhelming energy than on an obvious lack of any weak spot. As one among a number of shops to crown Profar the consensus finest prospect within the sport, Baseball America aptly described the phenomenon: “He might not have essentially the most energy, essentially the most pace, or the strongest arm on the sphere, however he normally Common is one of the best participant on the market.”

Even earlier than coming into skilled baseball, Profar was already a family identify within the baseball world, having helped lead Curaçao to back-to-back Little League World Sequence championship video games in 2004 and 2005. He was identified then for his talent. on the mound as a lot as his place participant abilities, however the Rangers gave him a $1.55 million signing bonus in 2009 and instructed him to give attention to shortstop and hitting. He greater than held his personal as a 17-year-old in rookie baseball, nevertheless it was a full-season debut with Low-A Hickory in 2011 throughout which he gained South Atlantic League MVP as an 18-year-old that rocketed Profar. . Transfer up the ranks of prospects.

Whereas Profar’s prospecting path seems like historical historical past by now, we’re only some years away from one other precocious switch-hitting shortstop who has an equally agency grip on the highest spot on almost each prospect checklist: Wander Franco.

Franco posted a lot flashier offensive stats as he moved up the minor league ladder, as his hitting acumen stood out as his main talent since he was of Little League age greater than any of Profar’s particular person instruments. Franco has additionally at all times been larger and extra powerfully constructed than the wiry Profar, who made it to professional ball after which the large leagues just by trying like a taller model of the child he bulldozed in Williamsport. Nonetheless, every raced to the large leagues with equal ease and had a knack for making the sport appear a lot easier than it ought to to gamers his age. Even with a canceled 2020 season, Franco made his main league debut after simply 215 minor league video games, changing into the primary participant born in 2001 to succeed in the MLB. In his debut, he homered and doubled.

There was no want to attend, Franco was a star upon arrival. The Rays responded accordingly, assigning him to an 11-year, $182 million extension after simply 70 video games.

9 years earlier, Profar had equally burst onto the scene, changing into the primary participant born in 1993 to make it to the MLB. He additionally recorded a house run and a double in his MLB debut, with the house run coming in his first plate look.

That September swing in Cleveland was simply one other superb instance of Profar’s prodigious potential to make one of many world’s hardest video games look really easy. Like Franco, an increase to big-league stardom appeared imminent.

Or so we thought.

With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler entrenched in the course of the Rangers’ infield throughout Profar’s rise by the minors, to not point out future Corridor of Famer Adrian Beltre within the sizzling nook, it wasn’t apparent the place precisely he would match. Profar on Texas plans regardless of his prospect pedigree. A spot appeared to open up when Kinsler was traded to Detroit for Prince Fielder after the 2013 season. Sadly, Profar started experiencing extreme shoulder-related ache in spring coaching of 2014. He had been enjoying with {a partially} torn labrum since his first 12 months in skilled baseball in 2010, however now, simply when he appeared to lose the second base job, he could not play. He missed all of 2014 simply attempting to rehab his shoulder earlier than succumbing to surgical procedure the next February, which sidelined one other full season in 2015.

As an alternative, he spent two years destined to seek out his place within the massive leagues on the IL. When he returned in 2016, his path to enjoying time was far much less apparent, his prolific prospect having handed nearly with out which means. With Andrus nonetheless round, shortstop was out of the query, which started an additional enlargement of Profar’s defensive horizons.

This was much more crucial contemplating his sluggish adjustment to massive league pitching: the bat simply wasn’t working the way in which many had projected it could. In 112 video games with Texas between 2016 and 2017, Profar hit .227/.316/.315 and rebounded between AAA and MLB.

Profar lastly obtained his break at shortstop when Andrus went on the disabled checklist with a damaged arm after being hit by a pitch in April. Finally, regardless of being solely 25 years previous, Profar started to indicate glimpses of the expertise he as soon as praised on the highest degree. He got here up quick as soon as Andrus returned, however completed the 12 months with 20 dwelling runs and a 107 OPS+ in 146 video games.

Many anticipated it to be a springboard to stardom, nevertheless it truly ended up being a foretaste of what we all know in the present day: hardly a star, however a wonderfully strong and significantly worthwhile complementary participant on a contending group. It was this function he has crammed brilliantly properly for San Diego since arriving by way of commerce in December 2019, culminating in a career-high in hits and video games performed in 2022 simply because the Padres sought a World Sequence.

It could appear that such a season would put Profar in a robust place coming into the open market; which is why he opted out of the roughly $8 million participant choice he had for 2023 within the first place. As an alternative, Profar has been misplaced within the shuffle of a lot higher-profile free brokers, lots of whom are additionally represented by his agent Scott Boras. Now, with spring coaching simply across the nook, Profar has but to signal, with few apparent groups prepared handy over a multi-year deal.

On the similar time, it isn’t solely stunning that Profar is presently one of the best participant to lose a seat in baseball’s annual Winter Recreation of Musical Chairs roster. In free company, stars promote, and Profar appears far faraway from that sort of benefit and subsequently could also be harder to lure a entrance workplace to decide to long-term.

However we’re nonetheless speaking about an above-average participant, and one who deserves a spot on a great group. He may nonetheless slot in with the Padres, however definitely much less so after the signings of Matt Carpenter and Adam Engel. The Yankees and Dodgers may use a nook outfielder, however neither appears particularly wanting to get again into free company waters. Oakland, Kansas Metropolis and Cincinnati may absolutely use some assist in the outfield, too, however they’d in all probability favor to simply play youthful gamers.

Oddly sufficient, essentially the most wise touchdown level for Profar at this stage could be the place it began. The Rangers have spent massive to revise his rotation this winter, however the depth of the offense stays suspect at finest. There’s additionally a notable gap in left area, the place a mixture of Josh Smith, Brad Miller and Bubba Thompson are presently projected to get the lion’s share of reps. It is not as attractive as bringing within the likes of Corey Seager or Jacob deGrom, nevertheless it’s precisely the sort of modern transfer they need to be on the lookout for if they’ve any hope of maintaining with Houston, not to mention Seattle and Anaheim within the League West. American. . It will not be the extent of homecoming Andrew McCutchen had coming again to Pittsburgh, nevertheless it nonetheless makes numerous sense.

Jurickson Profar #13 of the Texas Rangers is congratulated by teammates after hitting a house run on Might 26, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. (Photograph by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Photographs)

Usually after we look again at one of the best prospects, we see their leads to extremes: they both turned bona fide stars or have been simply flops. The reality is, most prospects find yourself someplace within the center as completely strong gamers. Whether or not Profar has reached the sky-high ceiling attributed to him or not, the truth that he has developed into a great massive leaguer continues to be an unqualified success.

Ultimately, Profar will signal someplace, with a lot much less fanfare than he as soon as generated in abundance. Whichever group indicators him, he might not get one of the best participant on the sphere, however he’ll nonetheless get an excellent one.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He has lined baseball his complete grownup life, largely for MLB.com, DAZN and The doorbell. He is a Mariners fan and lives within the Japanese time zone, which suggests he loves a great first pitch at 10 p.m. You may comply with him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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