Jurickson Profar to begin season in minors

On Monday, a report came out quoting Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels stating that the team’s top two prospects, shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt, will likely begin the season in the minor leagues unless the Rangers have full-time at-bats for them. Daniels was quoted in the article as saying “we believe in Mitch Moreland.”

Moreland, of course, is the Rangers’ starting first baseman, a title which, as long as he holds it, has a domino effect on the rest of the Rangers lineup and the immediate futures of Profar and Olt. To fit Profar into their lineup, the Rangers have toyed with the idea of sliding current second baseman Ian Kinsler over in the infield and making him their full-time first baseman and having Profar replace Kinsler at second base. Instead, it appears that the Rangers would prefer to keep Moreland in the daily lineup and Profar in the minors for the time being.

There is no rush for Profar, who will turn just 20 this spring, but the question the Rangers should be asking themselves is, “who gives us a better chance to win, Profar or Moreland?” Even at 20, it’s hard to believe that Profar won’t provide the Rangers with more value than Mitch Moreland.

In 2012, Moreland was a 0.6-win player in almost full playing time. Profar’s defense at second base alone should be worth more than that. Of course, if we’re going to compare this properly, we have to take Profar’s value plus Kinsler’s value as a first baseman and compare it to Moreland and Kinsler’s value as a second baseman. After all, Kinsler’s value diminishes as he moves down the defensive spectrum.

Kinsler, in 2012, was a 3.2-win player. To replicate that value while playing primarily first base, his offensive numbers will have to get back to their 2011 level, a task that isn’t impossible. Most likely, he’ll be a two- or three-win player as a first baseman.

Let’s be conservative and say that Kinsler is a two-win player at first base in 2013. That’s a 1.4-win upgrade at first base over Moreland, who has more of the traditional first base attributes because he’s big and hits some home runs, but in reality, doesn’t get on base much, has only moderate power (below average for a first baseman) and can’t hit lefties (career .621 OPS). That means Profar would have to be only a 1.8-win player at second base to be more valuable than Moreland. Even at age 20, that seems extremely realistic.

An argument can be made that, by keeping Profar in the minors for more development, the Rangers will get more value out of their six guaranteed years of controlling him. After all, he will probably be a better player in his 27- and 28-year old seasons than he is at 20 and 21. And for most teams, that’s a realistic dilemma to consider. But the Rangers are working with a rare window of World Series contention and now is not the time to worry about those differences. Now is the time to put their best team on the field.

There is an argument to be made that their best team might involve Moreland instead of Profar, but it would then have to include Olt. The only way the Rangers can justify playing Moreland regularly is if they have a right-handed platoon option for him. Last season, they had catcher Mike Napoli, who made 24 starts at first base. This year, the Rangers have no such option other than Olt.

Olt should eventually turn himself into a better player than just the right-handed half of a first base platoon, but that’s the role the Rangers need him for this season if they plan to leave Kinsler at second base, Profar in the minors, and Moreland as an everyday player. It may not be the best use of one of Olt’s inexpensive pre-arbitration seasons, but it’s the one that fits their needs right now, and who knows, the opportunity to succeed in the majors could lead to him stealing more and more of Moreland’s playing time as the season progresses.

But the best option for the Rangers this season appears to be using Profar at second and Kinsler at first. There is almost no chance that the Rangers can keep Profar in the minors for the entire 2013 season, so they’re going to have to find a spot for him at some point. If that spot is going to be second base, then Kinsler will have to learn a new position. Trying to do so on the fly in the middle of the season as opposed to in spring training seems to be setting him up to fail.

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  1. Bill McKinley said...

    Talent will out.

    The Rangers need look no further than Anaheim a season ago. A month with Mike Trout in AAA likely cost the Angels a playoff spot.

    Olt and Profar were in Texas for about 6 weeks at the end of last season and got perhaps 50 ABs between them (that’s on Ron Washington). Either might have sent Michael Young or Moreland to the bench for good had they been given the opportunity. At the least, veterans would have been more rested for the post season.

    If Profar and Olt are deemed major league ready, it serves little purpose to waste their talent in AAA when the Rangers have several needs. If you don’t want to sacrifice the youngsters in trade, bite the bullet and trade a premium talent like Andrus to fill another hole (Upton) and live with any growing pains Profar experiences.

  2. Brad Johnson said...

    They could even use both players by sliding Kinsler to LF and Murphy into a platoon with Gentry in CF. Pushing Leonys Martin out of regular playing time has to have some value.

    Either way, the Rangers are being very careful at a time when cojones may be required.

  3. Terry C said...

    I think the Rangers are”keeping their powder dry”.

    The key to the Rangers infield is Elvis Andrus—whose name wasn’t mentioned in this article?

    They must decide now if they can extend Elvis—or trade him now. If he won’t resign—send him for Upton.
    And play Jurickson Profar 150 games at ss.

    I think the best option would be to pay Elvis—-and trade Profar—he could bring a Price. He’s the Rangers top bargaining chip. Any exotic trade begins with Profar. Keeping him in the minors for a couple months saves a “control year” and keeps his max value.

    That would give Moreland time to show what he can do in his now or never year. I to “believe in Mitch Moreland”.

    Kinsler is an all star second baseman. He should stay there! With Elvis as the franchise ss. Moreland at 1b. Profar in Tampa—Price on the bump @ BPIA.

    It would be awesome if a prospect package around Olt could bring Upton—-but it seems that has been tried.

    There’s a lot riding on the hamsrtings of Adrian Beltre—so Olt may be need here. I hold my breath every time Adrian’s legging one out! Olt could also platoon with Moreland.

  4. JoeC said...

    I’m starting to wonder if sabermetrics is beginning to hurt some young players, especially when it comes to their splits against LH/RH-pitching? It keeps being repeated that Moreland sucks against left-handed pitching, but might part of that be due to the fact that he normally sits against left-handers? Seems like the best way to learn to hit against left-handed pitchers is to actually bat against left-handed pitchers.

    Instead, once a trend is established, a manager will start to pigeonhole a guy who initially has some trouble with left-handers. Soon it turns into “he can’t hit left-handers” and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the guy who can’t hit left-handers never gets a chance to improve because he rarely is given the chance to face left-handers.

    All that said, I quibble with the assertion that Moreland last season had “almost full playing time”. 357 plate appearances doesn’t seem close to full playing time… maybe 2/3 playing time? In contrast, Kinsler had 731 plate appearances.

    I also question the wisdom of assuming that Kinsler would be a good defensive first baseman, especially compared to Moreland, who is a very good first baseman defensively. Add to that Kinsler’s advancing age (31 in June) and I think the smart move would be to bet on youth, give Moreland the first base job, ship Kinsler and put Profar at second base and enjoy a double-play combo that will serve you well for years.

  5. Brad Johnson said...

    L/R splits are not a sabermetric concept. Most sabermetricians will tell you that handedness splits are way overused. Obviously, some players have a clear split (think Ryan Howard), but for most players, any observed split is mostly statistical noise.

    There is of course an expected split, especially for left-handed hitters power numbers. It’s just not very big.

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