The Jurickson Profar 2013 major league season began much like we thought it would in spring training—with a call-up in response to an injury. The Rangers have said since the Winter Meetings that they didn’t intend to keep Profar on their major league roster unless they had a spot for him in their lineup. Thanks to the inevitability of injuries during the long, arduous baseball season, the Rangers knew they would have a need for Profar at some point.
Despite comments from Rangers manager Ron Washington claiming that he plans to split Profar’s time in the starting lineup with utility man Leury Garcia, it’s hard to believe that Profar won’t get the lion’s share of playing time during his stint in Arlington. Which, of course, beckons the questions, what happens to Profar when Kinsler returns?
Kinsler isn’t getting Wally Pipp‘d. There was talk in the spring of Kinsler seeing time in the outfield or at first base to get Profar more at-bats, but there are a number of obstacles to that now: I’ts a hard transition to make midseason, first baseman Mitch Moreland has been one of the Rangers’ best hitters and is handling lefties this season, and most importantly, Kinsler doesn’t really want to move.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus isn’t getting traded. And,despite rumors that he could see some time in the outfield, Profar still has yet to play anywhere but the infield as a professional.
All of which leaves Profar on the Rangers’ bench more often than not after these next two weeks and a dilemma on the team’s hands. The most likely solution is for the Rangersto do what the Cincinnati Reds did with Tony Cingrani.
The Reds’ left-hander joined their big league rotation when Johnny Cueto went to the DL, which gave him a similar timetable in the majors as the Rangers have with Profar. Cingrani’s time got extended when Cueto had a setback in his rehab, but the philosophy remained largely the same. CIngrani took the National League by storm, striking out at least eight batters in each of his first three starts, before coming back to Earth in his final three starts. Still, the Reds sent Cingrani back to the minors with a 3.27 ERA and 11.18 K/9. He still has some things to work on in the minors, but his play over the past few weeks gives the Reds a lot of hope for his future.
Does that not sound exactly like something we could be saying about Profar in early June?
The Reds decided, for right or wrong, that they didn’t have a place in their rotation for Cingrani upon Cueto’s return. The Rangers will likely come to the same conclusion regarding Profar upon Kinsler’s return. Sure, there is the the possibility that Profar comes out like gangbusters and gives the Rangers an incredibly tough decision, but even if he does, he’s likely heading back to Round Rock.
Much like with Cingrani, a demotion after a DL fill-in stint doesn’t have to be a punishment, and it doesn’t have to be permanent. Chances are good that Cingrani will make his way back to Cincinnati at some point this season, and chances are equally good that Profar spends a lot more than just these next two weeks in the majors this season. But that additional time in the majors probably won’t come immediately upon Kinsler’s return unless the Rangers change their stance about keeping Profar on their bench (which they should not), or if he hits about .500 and they simply can’t send him down.
The fact that the Rangers can replace one of their top players midseason without making a trade or taking a significant step back is a testament to their incredible organizational depth. If Profar takes off during his time with the Rangers in a Bryce Harper/Mike Trout-type way, then he could force the Rangers’ hand and his way into the Rangers lineup. But the more likely scenario is that he keeps the Rangers rolling in the same direction they’ve been going in with Kinsler and heads back to the minors, perhaps to finally get some work in the outfield as a way to get him in the lineup when he returns to Texas.
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