Mailbag time again at MMO. This time, Marcus asks:
Long time reader; first time question asker…
What’s with all the Jurickson Profar love? He’s rated number 1 by popular prospect polls; his minor league numbers (with my un-sabrey-eye) don’t seem to justify his rankings. Heck, he was ranked in front of Wil Myers who had some killer numbers. I get that he plays a premier position; but it’s not like he’s been a 20/20 guy with a 330 avg./400 obp through the minors. I read somewhere (maybe at MMO) that the Rangers have a knack for over hyping their prospects. I’m hearing some crazy trade proposals involve Wheeler, Montero or Thor. What’s your take? What back ups the high ranking? Hype machine or some metric or advanced scouting I don’t get. B/c the killer traditional (avg., hr, rbi) numbers are not there.
Thanks, Marcus. I’ll begin with the disclaimer that what I write below isn’t MMO’s stance; it’s mine. Perhaps some writers might agree with me, but I did a small poll to a scant three other writers, including Joe D., and it seems that I’m on my own here. So here it is: Profar is legit.
I think you underestimate the tools and skills Profar has, as well as the numbers he’s put up. I’ll also remind you that prospect rankings are less about what the player is currently doing in the minors performance-wise and more about what his skills and tools say his potential could be. Of course, reaching that potential isn’t a sure thing, so it’s very possible Myers ends up with the better career, but Profar has the higher upside.
If you’re judging him based on his .239/.301/.354 major league line in only 234 plate appearances at ages 19 and 20, I feel you’re not looking at the big picture. He’s had excellent offensive seasons in the minor leagues, and always played young for his league to boot. He hit .286/.390/.493 with 12 home runs as a 18-year-old in High A, .281/.368/.452 with 14 home runs in AA at 19 before his call up last season and hit .278/.370/.438 with four home runs in 36 games this season in AAA at 20 before heading back to Arlington, probably for good. He also stole 45 bases at a 76% success rate in those minor league seasons. Those are outstanding offensive numbers for a top-of-the-order shortstop. There were only 14 hitters in all of baseball last season that hit at least .280/.375/.460, a rough mean slash line for those three seasons. And not all 14 played exceptional defense at a premium position.
Which brings me to his defense. He’s widely considered (as you probably know from reading the prospect polls) one of the best defensive shortstops in the minor leagues. But don’t take my word for it. I’ve only seen him play a handful of times. I went looking for scouting reports from trusted people that have seen him plenty and I wasn’t surprised with what I found. Consider this from our good friend John Sickles from before this season:
He does all the stuff you want a prospect to do. He hits for a solid average. He hits for power, good power for a shortstop anyway. He steals bases, and he does it at a sabermetrically-sound percentage. He draws walks. He plays excellent defense. He works hard, thrives under pressure, is highly intelligent, and has a great personality. Jurickson Profar does not do the things that you don’t want a prospect to do. He doesn’t strike out too much. He doesn’t swing at pitches three feet off the plate. He doesn’t run himself into outs. He doesn’t make a huge number of errors. He doesn’t snarl at the press or alienate his teammates.
Take all the positive things, and the lack of negative things, and combine that with a guy who has been very young for his levels and you have, well, Jurickson Profar. With Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado safely ensconced in the majors, Profar is now the best prospect in baseball. With additional physical maturity, this is a guy who could win Gold Gloves while hitting .300, hitting 15 homers, stealing 20 bases, drawing 80 walks, and charming puppies and kittens and beat reporters all across North America. Grade A.
On defense, he features plus range and plus arm strength at shortstop. His error rate isn’t bad for such a young player, and his reliability will continue to improve. Despite average running speed, he’s adept on the bases and a threat to steal. His makeup and intelligence are exceptional. He has no significant flaws, and the main thing he needs is simple experience.
Professional scout Mike Newman had this to say:
In the case of Jurickson Profar, I’ve scoured my notes and video to identify problem areas in his all-around game, but I simply can’t find any. At present, the young shortstop is as complete a position prospect as one could hope to find at any level of the minor leagues.
Baseball America graded him as follows on the 20-80 scouting scale: Bat: 70. Power: 60. Speed: 55. Defense: 65. Arm: 60. For reference, the scale is defined as:
70+: MVP, Perennial All-Star – Front-line ace pitcher; superstar position player
60-69: Above average, All-Star caliber – #1 or #2 pitcher; position player among the best
55-59: Solid MLB player – #3 or #4 pitcher or top middle relief; solid starting position player
50-54: Average MLB player – Back end starter, average relief; position player that could start on most teams.
45-49: Backup – Spot starter, fair relief; utility/bench player
40-44: Fringe player – Up and down, could make the team for lower-tier club
30-39: AA or AAA – Emergency call-up
20-29: Low minors
Additionally, the good folks at Baseball America add:
To paraphrase one Rangers instructor, Profar may not have the most power, the most speed or the strongest arm on the field, but typically he’s the best player out there. A natural right-handed hitter, he learned to switch-hit after signing and now shows uncommon bat speed from both sides of the plate, lending him more power than his lean 6-foot frame suggests. Profar surprises some opponents with his pop—which is above-average for a middle infielder—but he may have to tone down his swing to maximize his overall production. He takes a disciplined approach to hitting, with strong knowledge of the strike zone that ought to make him a consistent .300 hitter in his prime. An above-average defender at shortstop, Profar has instincts that outstrip his plus range. His hands and arm are above-average as well. Some of his throws to first base tend to sail when he gets on the side of the ball, but that’s just a matter of adjustment. He has solid speed and knows how to use it on the bases, stealing 16 bases in 20 tries in 2012. Observers rave about Profar’s mental toughness, leadership skills and grace under pressure. “He’s all about winning and getting better,” one club official said. As his body matures, he ought to hold up better under the rigors of the long season.
So, Marcus, to answer your question “What backs up the high ranking? Hype machine or some metric or advanced scouting?” it’s a combination of all three. His stats are excellent, the scouting reports back it up, and the hype is real. He’s #1. And what makes him more unique is that those hypothetical trade offers you read about, from the Mets or any other team, that include two or three of a team’s top prospects aren’t normally offered for a prospect. Those are usually reserved for young studs, and it’s Profar getting that kind of attention. He’s going to be something else.
Hat tip to Teddy Klein for contributing the Baseball America scouting report and scouting grade.