Back on July 2, 2009, in the pre-Twitter days when the only way to communicate my Rangers-centric thoughts, comprehensive or fleeting, was by email, I sent four reports out to the mailing list.
The first was about the previous night’s walkoff win over the Angels (courtesy of a Hank Blalock home run to center, his second blast of the game), bringing Texas to within a half-game of the Angels’ division lead.
The second contained the 11th installment of Bakersfield righthander Ryan Tatusko’s “Back Field Diaries.”
The third included audio of Eric Nadel’s call of the Blalock walkoff (the first of the 28-year-old’s career, and I’m guessing the last), plus this note that a scout shared with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus about Frisco first baseman Justin Smoak: “The ball comes off his bat so hard . . . . He’s going to make Rangers fans not miss Mark Teixeira all that much.”
The fourth touched on Josh Hamilton’s rehab assignment in Oklahoma City, a dramatic increase in Rangers viewership on Fox Sports Southwest, and a planned Q&A with Neftali Feliz.
That date, July 2, 2009, would be tremendously significant for the Rangers and Angels because of something that didn’t make it into those four emails, something that had nothing to do with the fact that Texas had the day off as Tampa Bay traveled to Arlington while Los Angeles opened a four-game series that night in Baltimore, beating the Orioles to extend its lead over the Rangers to a full game in the standings.
It was significant because, on that day, Texas signed 16-year-old Curacao shortstop Jurickson Profar, and Los Angeles signed 17-year-old New Jersey high school outfielder Mike Trout.
The parallels between the two go beyond the date they turned pro. At that time, the baseball card for Trout would have said he was the lone player who accepted MLB Network’s invitation to hang out in the studio during the June 9th draft (he was selected 25th overall, with a comp pick forfeited by the Yankees for signing Teixeira). Profar’s bullet point was that he starred in the Little League World Series in 2004 and 2005, primarily as a pitcher.
Today those are footnotes in a blog post without column inch boundaries.
Profar signed for $1.55 million, Trout for $1.215 million.
Goldstein had the 19-year-old Trout as his number two prospect in baseball on his mid-season list last summer. He has the 19-year-old Profar number one on his mid-season list this year.
Baseball America had Trout number two on its mid-season list in 2011. The publication has Profar number two this summer.
Keith Law (ESPN) had Trout number one last mid-season. He has Profar number one now.
Trout arrived in the big leagues shortly after those lists started coming out.
With Michael Young getting today’s start at shortstop, and the bench returning to its short status once Leonys Martin is presumably returned to Round Rock when Ryan Dempster is reactivated for Monday’s start, the discussion of whether Profar will make his own debut at age 19 gains momentum.
Trout, who was returned to AAA to begin the 2012 season, amassed 1,312 minor league plate appearances.
Profar has 1,323 minor league plate appearances.
Their minor league at-bat totals and walk totals are nearly identical, too, but Trout’s slash is higher (.342/.425/.516 to .275/.364/.453) and he has more triples (34 to 15) and stolen bases (108 to 46), while Profar has fewer strikeouts on the farm (183 to 211) and more home runs (30 to 23) and doubles (81 to 57).
When Trout was purchased from the AA Texas League last July – he’d gone 5 for 15 during a series in Frisco and played one more game in Midland when he got the call – he was hitting .324/.415/.534. His arrival wasn’t prompted by an injury to another Angels outfielder. He was thought to be ready. Los Angeles optioned righthander Tyler Chatwood to make room for the phenom.
And he bombed. Over a span of three weeks, he played nearly every day. The Trout slash stood at .163/.213/.279 in 43 at-bats when the Angels cut the experiment short and returned Trout to Arkansas, recalling infielder Andrew Romine from AAA Salt Lake.
Trout then resumed his assault on AA pitching, hitting .333/.408/.587 over 63 at-bats and earning a recall to Los Angeles one year ago tomorrow. He was better over the season’s final six weeks (.250/.318/.450) than he’d been in July, but might have been gassed. The Angels sent Trout to the Arizona Fall League after the season, and he hit an anemic .245/.279/.321, which is almost impossible to get my head wrapped around.
Was Trout rushed last summer?
Would he be as dominant today if he hadn’t gotten his feet wet and worked through those initial struggles last year?
Keep in mind that Trout, in spite of playing for Mike Scioscia, was in the lineup virtually every day during his two big league stints last summer. It was more work than Mike Olt is getting, for instance, and far more than Profar would get if he came up now.
Would Ron Washington get Profar on the field more than once a week? In a radio interview this week, a day or two after Nolan Ryan had said there was a “reasonable chance” that Profar would see Arlington this season, Washington responded to a similar question by pointing out, tersely: “This kid was playing Low A ball last year.” He added that the teenager could stand to play a full season at AA and continue to learn how the game is played.
Washington played four Class A seasons and three AA seasons and had reached AAA before getting a big league look at age 25. He spent time in eight different seasons after that playing in the minor leagues. He paid his dues, and then kept paying.
Draw your own conclusion.
To reissue a theme from a few days ago:
The General Manager sets the roster.
But the manager sets the lineup.
There are the procedural points that have been blogged a bunch this week. Many of them are basically irrelevant.
Options aren’t really an issue. If Profar were purchased now, with rosters set to expand in two weeks, he probably wouldn’t be sent back down to the farm. (Frisco’s regular season ends on September 3, and the playoffs could last until September 16, but that’s not going to drive the bigger decision.) So no option would be used in 2012.
Plus, if Profar needs three options in his career, something will have gone very, very wrong. Non-issue.
Starting his service time clock could affect his free agency timetable. If he were to arrive anytime before a couple weeks into the 2013 season (without spending more time after that on the farm), he could be a free agent after the 2018 season. But if he’s the transcendent type of player that the Rangers think he could be, given the team’s salary structure and the point at which its core players will be, it would be sensible to expect Texas to approach Profar at some point with a long-term proposal (similar to Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Salvador Perez, others) that would make the winter in which Profar first becomes a free agent immaterial.
As for arbitration eligibility, a long-term deal before that point would take care of that, too, but even without that prospect, in order to avoid potential Super Two status, Texas would have to keep Profar in the minor leagues a couple months into the 2013 season. I get the sense that this ownership group and front office, if Profar is deemed to be one of this club’s best 25 players next spring (if not sooner), won’t decide to keep him farmed for months in 2013 just to save a couple million dollars in 2016.
It was a different case with Teixeira in 2003. Maybe a determination to keep him in the minors a little longer to buy an extra year before free agency would have made sense. The team wasn’t very good and could have afforded to make a decision on that basis. Plus, I suspect the organization was less confident that the Scott Boras client would be open to locking up here long-term than it is with Profar today.
The one real procedural issue, perhaps, is that purchasing Profar now puts him on the 40-man roster. It’s not a huge problem at the moment, as the roster sits at 39 players and has a couple candidates for removal should additional players be added via trade this month. But in the winter, Profar would take up a roster spot that he wouldn’t otherwise (he wouldn’t be Rule 5-eligible), which theoretically makes it tougher to add players in the off-season.
But there are lots of players on the roster who will be free agents this winter (Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, Mike Adams, Mark Lowe, Koji Uehara, Roy Oswalt, and almost certainly Scott Feldman), and not all of them will return or be replaced externally. There are Rule 5 decisions to be made on players like Leury Garcia, Chad Bell, Odubel Herrera, Tomas Telis, Johan Yan, and Joseph Ortiz, too, but devoting a spot on the roster to Profar shouldn’t cause too much lost sleep in that regard.
This really comes down, I think, to two things: Whether the Rangers’ baseball operations group thinks Profar – a player whom Frisco manager Steve Buechele says is “not afraid to fail, but I think the best trait that he has is he’s not afraid to be great” – is ready now to contribute in some role (and benefit going into 2013 from the experience), and whether the manager is willing to use him.
Rest Elvis Andrus once a week. Rest Ian Kinsler once a week. Maybe twice a week on Kinsler, having him DH once. Especially after two full seasons that included full post-seasons, not to mention Kinsler’s extended skid, the rest for those two could pay dividends in October, right?
And there’s an argument, you’d think, by looking at Trout’s 2011, that it could pay dividends for the Rangers and Profar, a player whose abilities and feel for the game are going to help in a big way very soon, not only to improve the current bench situation but also to get the gifted infielder’s introduction to Major League pitching underway and out of the way.
As long as the manager is on board.