When Jurickson Profar gathered in the one-hop David Murphy throw from left center, wheeled, and lunged to (theoretically) tag Stephen Drew out to erase a would-be double leading off the bottom of the third in what was then Boston 0, Texas 0, a thought I’d never considered skidded into my head. I tweeted:
I wish @JURICKSONPROFAR wanted to be a catcher in 2009. Or now.
I mean, how ridiculously great would that be? The game IQ, the footwork and arm strength and athleticism and quickness, the setting up (and Jurick-baiting) of hitters, the perfectly timed trips to the mound, the leadership, the potential for Posey-like offense from the position.
The smile. The confidence.
Man, the confidence.
Never mind the un-catcher-like build. Had one of the dozen or more teams that wanted to sign Profar as a pitcher succeeded, you can bet he’d look different in the lower half after four years of strength and conditioning work. He’d have gotten there as a catcher. Ever seen what Christian Bethancourt looks like (or what Jorge Alfaro looked like when he signed)?
Just imagine how he’d fit right now. The Rangers are super-fortified at shortstop, with Elvis Andrus locked up for years, Profar and Leury Garcia ready to contribute, and prospects like Luis Sardinas and Hanser Alberto and Luis Marte and Alberto Triunfel and Luis Terrero maturing on the farm while Rougned Odor and Odubel Herrera and Ryan Rua and Janluis Castro keep second base occupied. How great would it be if Profar were ready to step in behind the plate and answer that roster question for the next decade?
It’s not going to happen, and I’m not suggesting it should. This is not going to be like the times I used to wonder aloud what Chris Davis as catcher would have looked like in Texas.
But as long as Profar makes plays like he did to start the Boston third last night, blindly gathering and lunging and tagging and selling, and as long as the Rangers’ catching situation remains an annual action item, I’ll probably continue to wonder.
After Joe Nathan made an athletic play on the third of his six ninth-inning pitches to retire Jose Iglesias, I noted on Twitter that both he and the reliever he succeeded, Tanner Scheppers, were college shortstops. Reader Jeramy Nowlin one-upped me, pointing out that all three outs in the quiet ninth were on plays made by onetime shortstops: Nathan, Andrus, and Profar.
The club could stand an upgrade, system-wide, at catcher. And suddenly the organization’s lack of depth at the big league and upper minor league levels on the corners is being exposed a bit, as Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland are dealing with hamstring injuries, Murphy and Nelson Cruz will be free agents in their 30’s this winter (and at least one of them could force the team to confront a huge mid-season issue), Mike Olt is working to come back from an offensively debilitating vision issue, Engel Beltre and Joe Benson are interesting but on their final options and probably not ready to help a contender, and the organization’s real promise on the four corners lives for the moment in Class A and lower.
But when Texas makes its picks tonight in Rounds One (23rd and 30th overall) and Two (62nd) of the amateur draft, don’t assume that the club is going to try and find a college corner bat that it thinks can fit into the frame before players like Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara and Nick Williams and Jairo Beras are ready. Don’t expect catcher to be the Rangers’ priority. Don’t be surprised if they haul off and add another shortstop. Or two.
The tired, annually recycled point is that you don’t draft for need in baseball. And if you’re doing it the Rangers’ way, you focus on the middle of the field, adding as much pipeline talent as you can on the mound, and behind the plate, and at shortstop and center field. Take the best player available, stay in the middle of the field when all else is equal, and let’s roll.
Worry about sorting out playing time in Myrtle Beach and Hickory and Spokane and Surprise later.
Your prize shortstop may just become a second baseman, when the time comes. Or a third baseman. Or a center fielder. Or a pitcher. Or a Marlin.
Just probably not a catcher.
No, not a catcher.