A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Rangers agreeing to an extension with Rougned Odor. In short, I concluded that it was a great deal, but I had some reservations over his poor plate discipline. Though the stats this season are barely even noise, he is off to a great start. He is hitting .318/.348/.773 with 3 HR, two of which came on Opening Day.
There is a concern amidst Odor’s raking at the plate, as he is striking out at a 30 percent clip. He is swinging at pitches outside the zone as often as ever, but is currently making less contact. He is swinging at pitches in the zone less often, and his swinging strike rate is slightly up. In other words, the same concerns I had for him when he signed that great extension are unsurprisingly still there today.
In the article I linked above, one of the reasons I liked Odor’s extension was because the Rangers did not have anyone that could replace him in the farm system, at least not in the short/medium-term. In the comment section of the article, a friendly reader brought up something I overlooked. I forgot Jurickson Profar is on the team, and that he is a very capable second baseman. Having played only 90 games last year after missing the two previous seasons due major shoulder injuries, I suppose it was easy for me to forget about him.
If Profar becomes the player that scouts projected him to be, and my concerns about Odor turn out to be his undoing, then this extension is going to hurt. Considering that Profar hit .239/.321/.338 last year for a 78 wRC+, it is hard to see his upside right now. However, he is certainly a better defensive second baseman than Odor.
Of course, Profar can play more than just second base. He came up as a shortstop and has experience playing every infield position plus left field. If Profar does reach his upside, there are other places to play him.
Before the 2016 season, I was curious to see if Profar could displace Elvis Andrus. Setting aside all the money still owed to Andrus for a moment, he had hit a lowly .264/.317/.340 over the previous three seasons. Worse still, his defense and baserunning — the skills in which he excelled, and the skillset that earned him his extension — declined mightily starting in 2014. Entering 2016, Andrus was in danger of becoming a bench player.
Thankfully, Andrus bounced back big time in 2016. He was an above-average hitter with a line of .302/.362/.439. He had the highest ISO of his career at .136. He did have a .333 BABIP, but that is not much higher than his career rate of .312. Unfortunately, his defense does not seem like it is going to get anywhere close to what it was in his earlier years. As a result, a utility role could still be in his future, which could be difficult for the Rangers’ decision-makers to swallow. He is owed approximately $15 million a year through 2022. Andrus does have an opt-out after 2018 and 2019, but at the rate he is going it is hard to see him exercising it.
Going back to Profar, he could put a lot of pressure on Andrus if he really starts to hit. The Rangers could also put him in the outfield like they have done previously. If Joey Gallo can get his strikeout rates under 30 percent, the Rangers could theoretically have an outfield of Nomar Mazara, Gallo, and Profar, which could make for a heck of an offensive outfield.
Gallo is playing third base right now, but that is only while Adrián Beltré (who is signed through 2018) is on the disabled list. It is possible that Gallo or Profar could take over third base after 2018, but that overlooks the fact that Beltré is an alien and will probably be a 6-WAR player for several more years. Regardless, Gallo has an arm that I have seen described as high as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, so he should be fine in right field.
The biggest obstacle in Profar’s way right now is that he will never reach that potential upside unless he gets regular playing time. He only has 9 PA this year through X games.
I understand the that the Rangers are expected to be in a tight division race this year, which would make any struggles that Profar has at the plate difficult to withstand. However, his upside could be a difference maker, and I am pretty sure that the Rangers would like to contend beyond 2017. Playing Profar more now enhances the team later.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.