Profar became the second youngest player to homer in his first career at-bat
This is the season of the young phenom in Major League Baseball.
First, it was 21-year-old Mike Trout and 19-year-old Bryce Harper. Next, the 20-year-old Manny Machado followed. Today, 19-year-old Jurickson Profar arrived and etched his name in the baseball history books.
Called up by Texas on Saturday when rosters expanded, Profar was abruptly inserted into the starting lineup at second base when Ian Kinsler was scratched because of lower back stiffness. The Rangers’ top overall prospect, and ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the game by MLB.com, Profar became the second youngest player and only the third teenager to belt a home run in his first career at-bat when he sent a 2-1 fastball from Indians right-hander Zach McAllister over the right field fence this aftern0on.
Profar, who was summoned from Double-A Frisco and has yet to play an inning at Triple-A, is the youngest player to homer in the majors since Adrian Beltre in 1998. Beltre was 19 years and 171 days old at the time while Profar is 19 years and 195 days old today.
The first teenager to appear in a game for the Rangers since Ivan Rodriguez in 1991, Profar is regarded as a shortstop for the long term, but the Rangers have 24-year-old Elvis Andrus, who is batting .301 with 20 stolen bases. If Kinsler’s back injury lingers, Profar will likely see time at second base.
Profar was 2-for-4 with the home run and a double in the Major League debut. At Frisco, he had a .281 average with 14 home runs, 62 RBI, 26 doubles, seven triples and 16 stolen bases in 480 at-bats.
Like Machado, who was called up from Double-A by the Orioles and into the heat of a pennant race, Profar is getting his first taste of the majors amid pressure-packed games. The Rangers, who have won two American League championships in a row, own the best record in the AL at 79-54 and appear headed for another AL West title, if they can hold off teh surging Oakland A’s, who are three games back.
Rangers Options for Off -Season
While it remains to be seen how deep the Rangers will play in October this year, the off-season will undoubtedly be active for Nolan Ryan’s club. Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster and Roy Oswalt will be free agents. If Hamilton and Napoli do not return, the Rangers could have a need for a DH.
There is speculation that Texas could deal Andrus (who is signed for $4.8 million next season and $6.475 million in 2014) for a young outfielder under team control like Arizona’s Justin Upton to replace Hamilton. Under that scenario, Profar would become the starting shortstop.
Another option for the Rangers is having Kinsler split time at first base and DH, keep Andrus and make Profar the starting shortstop. Adrian Beltre is signed through 2015, and he provides Gold Glove caliber defense at third base and a potent bat, so his long-term spot with the team is assured.
The athletic Profar has more range and a better glove than Kinsler, and Kinsler is versatile enough to adapt to first base. Complicating matters, though, is the presence of 24-year-old Mike Olt, another top prospect who made his Major League debut for the Rangers earlier this season. Olt is a defensively sound corner infield with a run-producing bat, though he is hitting just .160 over 25 at-bats since his call up.
Veteran Michael Young, who can play every infield position and DH, is signed through next season at $16 million.
Considering the high ceilings of Profar and Olt, the value of Andrus and the presence of the useful and versatile Young, it makes sense for the Rangers to move Kinsler to a dual first base/DH role so they can keep all the aforementioned players.
Another alternative is trading the 30-year-old Kinsler, who has a 1.98 average in his last 24 games and an overall mark of .266 with 16 home runs, 66 RBI, 36 doubles and 21 stolen bases. He has started 128 games at second base and 10 at DH, so the latter role is not foreign to him.
Kinsler signed a five-year, $75 million extension that begins in 2013 and lasts through 2017 with a $10 million team option for 2018, so even if the Rangers would choose to trade him, finding a taker would not be easy.
Should the team prefer to keep Andrus and find a starting position for Profar next season, another choice is trading the fan favorite Young.
A veteran of 12 Major League season, all with Texas, Young has a career .301 average and is one of the most versatile regulars in baseball. Yet, since he is signed through 2013 at $16 million a year, Young is the most tradeable piece if the Rangers want to keep Andrus and Kinsler, and free spots for Profar and Olt.
Profar and Olt represent the long-term future for Texas. Andrus has yet to enter his prime years and Kinsler is in the midst of his prime and signed through at least 2017. Keeping that group together, along with Beltre, gives the Rangers a formidable core even without Hamilton, Napoli and Young.