Rangers manager Ron Washington told MLB.com earlier this week that they will continue to sit on the fence where Profar is concerned, announcing that Profar and utilityman Leury Garcia will receive equal playing time while regular second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the disabled list.
So, why did the Rangers bring up Profar from the minor leagues at all if he's just going to sit on the bench half the time?
Where Profar was going to play was a heavily debated subject in the offseason. The 20-year-old Curacao native was called up to the majors at the end of last year -- on Aug. 31, just in case they needed him in the postseason -- and mostly rode the pine in September, playing in only nine games. When he did play, he played out of position at second base.
In the offseason, moving Kinsler to the outfield and inserting Profar at second was briefly considered, but ultimately Kinsler stayed put and Profar started the season at Triple-A playing shortstop, his natural position. Now the Rangers have locked up shortstop Elvis Andrus for eight years and Kinsler is signed until 2017, so the Rangers' middle infield is set for a long, long time. That leaves no place for Profar on the major-league team, barring a position switch by Kinsler.
Profar is used to moving up the Rangers' ranks quickly. They signed him at age 16 in 2009, he played in the U.S. for the first time the following year, and he jumped from the South Atlantic League in 2011 to Double-A in 2012. He was called up to the Rangers from Double-A later in the 2012 season at age 19. It is widely believed that he is ready for the majors right now at age 20.
So what do the Rangers do with this switch-hitting super prospect who has speed, power, defensive range, and ability to hit for average from both sides of the plate? Do they play him out of position at second and move Kinsler, whose play at second base has been erratic? Right fielder Nelson Cruz is a free agent after the season and could depart, clearing the way to move Kinsler to the outfield and Profar to second.
Do they send Profar back to Triple-A to play his natural position of shortstop so he can play regularly even though he is ready for the big leagues? His major-league service time clock is already ticking and if he develops into the superstar he's projected to be, the Rangers might not even be able to afford him (or want to pay what he will be asking) when he becomes a free agent at age 25.
Trading Profar for pitching is a possibility. Why would the Rangers keep him if there is no place for him and they have no plans to use him? The Rangers' pitching staff has been hit hard by injuries. Losing Colby Lewis to injury last year and the failure of the trio of Martin Perez, Scott Feldman and Ryan Dempster to perform was a big reason why the Rangers lost first place on the last day of the season despite holding it from April 6 until that day. It is clear the Rangers will need to pitch consistently well in order to hold their division lead this year and to make any headway in the postseason.
One thing is certain: Calling up Profar to the major leagues to play only sporadically will not help him or the team. Last year, he hit only .176 in nine games over the last month. And this was after he went 2-for-4 in his first game with a homer in his first big-league at-bat. This year, he is 1-for-5 with a single in two games. He's not going to develop or gain his hitting stroke at the major-league level unless he plays every day. If he doesn't play every day, not only will he be a liability at the plate, but his trade value could also diminish if he puts up mediocre numbers while playing part time over an extended period.
Sure, Washington wants to get Leury Garcia some at-bats, but Garcia is not the future of the franchise, nor is he the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Garcia wouldn't be playing much if Kinsler wasn't disabled, so why suddenly increase his playing time when you have baseball's top prospect at your whim?
Washington has made a bad call by announcing he is going to give Garcia and Profar equal playing time. Regardless of what they ultimately decide to do with Profar, for now, it's not going to benefit anyone to have him sitting on the bench. Washington and the rest of the Rangers' management need to get off that fence.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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