If the 2018 season were a video game, the Texas Rangers would be pounding on the reset button. Very early in the year, it’s already too late.
Delino DeShields, hurt. Rougned Odor, hurt. The pitching staff has been lousy (4.94 ERA). The hitters aren’t hitting much (.230/.307/.348). That crummy 4-10 record is merited. The Rangers are already 6.5 games back in the AL West.
And now we throw an Elvis Andrus injury into the mix.
Andrus is one of the few Rangers off to a good start: .327/.426/.500, with a couple of homers. He’s batted third most of the year, and he was easily the team’s best player in 2017. Alas, he fractured his right elbow in Wednesday’s game, is out indefinitely.
What’s a lonely Lonestar fan to do? Maybe pick up Jurickson Profar.
If you’re versed in prospect rankings, you memorized Profar’s name a few years ago. He was the unanimous No. 1 prospect entering 2013, at the top of all three major ranking sites — Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com. Everyone slotted him Top 10 in the prior season, too. Profar was praised for his instincts, his athleticism, his versatility. The Rangers didn’t have an obvious position for Profar, but since he was capable of playing any infield spot or the corner outfield, that seemed like the least of anyone’s worries.
Profar was still a teenager, and stardom appeared imminent. But that’s when the story veered off course.
Profar had a mediocre debut with the Rangers in 2013 (.234/.308/.336), playing 88 games, but the team wasn’t concerned. Ian Kinsler was traded in the off season, opening up a spot for Profar. Alas, he missed the next two seasons with ongoing shoulder problems.
The last two years it’s been swimming in place. Profar has been good-not-great at Triple-A (over his career, .284/.373/.430), but he hasn’t hit much in Texas (.635 OPS). Profar wasn’t considered a starter as the team readied plans for 2018.
Now, of course, the Rangers have to play Profar. Too many other guys are hurt. He’s off to a messy .167/.355/.208 start over 24 at-bats, though he does have seven walks against just three strikeouts. He’s also stolen a base. He batted in the No. 2 slot the past three games, a nod to his OBP skills.
If you’re willing to bet on Profar, you’re betting on back class. You’re thinking about the post-hype potential here. He’s outfield-eligible for now, but should pick up infield tags down the road. He’s still just 25. And he’s merely owned in one percent of Yahoo leagues.
Could all of those scouts be wrong? Is Profar’s body broken, his confidence permanently ruined? Or can the kid start picking up the pieces in his mid-20s? In deeper leagues, this seems like a reasonable place to throw a dart. Texas is still a good place to hit. An opportunity is opening up. Plausible upside is present, so we talk about it.
• We had our Franchy Cordero day Wednesday, jumping on-blog shortly after his callup was announced. He backed up the hype, clocked a homer. Yes, you should still pick him up. His Triple-A numbers from last year were absurd. Mmmm, category juice.
• As wonderful as modern stats can be, walks and strikeouts tell so much of the story. With that in mind, Nick Pivetta is a must-own in any format. It’s not that he’s guaranteed to be good going forward, it’s just that his early results build such a strong case.
Pivetta only has one win over three starts and he didn’t work deep in his first two turns, though he went seven innings Wednesday. But look at the totality of the work: 16.2 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 19 K. The ratios are tidy — 2.70 ERA, 0.96 WHIP — but with that K/BB rate, I wouldn’t even care if the ERA were bloated. Pivetta’s 19-percent ownership is far too low. He draws Atlanta (road) and Pittsburgh (home) over the next two weeks.
• If you’re a fan of suggested ERA over the read deal, you’ll have no problem continuing to believe in Lance McCullers. His FIP is currently 3.76, his xFIP 2.42 — a good number and a sterling one. Unfortunately, in the real world, McCullers is saddled with a 7.71 ERA. The Twins got him for eight runs — and six walks — in Wednesday’s slugfest.
Is McCullers going to be one of those pitchers who regularly underperforms his secondary stats? Last year’s ERA was 4.25, while the two FIP metrics spit out numbers in the low 3s. To be fair, he’s got some silly luck metrics against him this year — a .485 BABIP is absurd, as is a strand rate just under 60 percent. But McCullers is also working behind in the count too often (Mike Salfino will tell you all about it, shortly); a big part of what’s biting him.
McCullers is just 24, so this story is nowhere close to finished. But given his injury history and teasing reputation, he is not someone I’m currently seeking out, even if the price were modestly reduced. If you feel otherwise, state your case in the comments.