Remember in The Sandlot, at the end when they tell us what everybody ends up doing? In that group of nine young boys from the same neighborhood, you have a borderline Hall of Fame baseball player (Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez), an eventual major league announcer (Smalls), a Triple-A pitcher (DeNunez), a professional wrestler (Porter), the inventor of bungee jumping (Ya-Ya), and the guys who invented Mini-Malls (the Timmons brothers). That’s one hell of a neighborhood.
We’re going through that sort of thing in the major leagues right now. The seasons being had by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are setting a new standard for what we expect out of prospects, and an unfair one at that. Not every neighborhood has Benny the Jet, and not every year gets a rookie who might win the MVP. In fact, most don’t.
But coming behind Trout and Harper, the latter coming on of late despite a rough August, is another wave of prospects who are ready to make an immediate impact. And only one prospect is in that class.
Jurickson Profar did his best to keep up with the recent trend of prospects, homering in his first career start as a teenager. The big question surrounding Profar is how the Rangers plan to get him playing time this fall. On Sunday, Profar worked his way into the lineup thanks to Ian Kinsler‘s late scratch, but the Rangers’ veteran-laden lineup doesn’t have a lot of extra at-bats to spare. Despite the logjam in Arlington, however, Profar could work his way onto the Rangers postseason roster.
Manager Ron Washington has one month to see how Profar takes to pinch-hitting. It’s not a natural task, especially for a player who’s always been a star dating back to his Little League World Series days, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it. Additionally, his defensive abilities will serve as a much better backup at both second base and shortstop than Michael Young. As long as Profar doesn’t drown in his first taste of the majors, there’s no reason to think he won’t make their postseason roster.
But while Profar is the only prospect, and certainly the only one called up this week, in the class of Trout and Harper, he’s not the only one who could play a significant postseason role.
Don’t sleep on Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds. The power-armed left-hander who has dominated the minor leagues this season could easily slide into a role in the Reds’ already-stellar bullpen. Despite the two lefties already residing in the back of their bullpen, Dusty Baker could use the flexibility of a third for match-up purposes, especially since closer Aroldis Chapman is used exclusively in the ninth inning. In 197.2 innings over the past two seasons, Cingrani has a 1.73 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and while he’s been lights out against lefties, he’s actually been even better against right-handed hitters in the minors this season.
There could be others who make postseason rosters. Nick Maronde, for instance, could take on a similar role in Los Angeles for the Angels as Cingrani in Cincinnati. While we’re on the topic of left-handed pitchers, there’s always the chance that Martin Perez of Texas could hone his power arsenal for a short period of time to be effective in October. He’s inconsistent, but in the postseason, you don’t have good for long, just at the right time.
We’ve seen late-season callups make their mark in Octobers past. In 2008, David Price took on a dominant role as a reliever despite just 14 major league innings under his belt, and last season the Rays did the same thing with Matt Moore, only they used him as a starter. The year before, Jacoby Ellsbury found himself starting in center field in the World Series for the Red Sox after just 33 major league games. And if we look back a decade, Francisco Rodriguez and Chone Figgins both contributed toward the Angels’ title despite their limited experience.
The point is, it can happen. Profar, Cingrani and the rest aren’t going to single-handedly win anyone a World Series, but they could help. And they might just get that chance.