Jurickson Profar is part of a proud group of Curaçaoan players – including Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Kenley Jansen, and Ozzie Albies. Despite the success of the aforementioned players, Profar is still trying to find his place in the big leagues more than seven years after making his debut. Even though he debuted at such a young age, his time in the big leagues was short-lived, as Profar toiled in the minor leagues for two more seasons before the Texas Rangers decided to trade Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder. Profar finally had his opportunity to become the franchise cornerstone – and it didn’t happen. He endured a shoulder injury missing both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. As a result, Profar had to rebuild his stock once again, as he started the 2016 campaign in Triple-A, though eventually got called up once Rougned Odor was suspended during his infamous brawl with Jose Bautista. However, since they had Odor, Profar was relegated to left field as they tried to keep his bat in the lineup and give him playing time. The offensive output was poor, producing a wRC+ of 75 in 2016 before having a 36 wRC+ in 2017 – at that point, he lost playing time to Ryan Rua and Delino Deshields Jr. In spite of a tumultuous big league career up to that point, Profar put together a solid showing last season, hitting 20 home runs with a 107 wRC+.
This did not stop the Rangers from moving on, however, as Profar would be shipped off to the Oakland Athletics to play second base. Of course, the gains made from last season were nearly all but gone to start this season. Profar not only struggled to a familiar 75 wRC+ till the end of July but also struggled to throw the ball thus becoming a liability in the field. This meant by the time August rolled around, Profar once again ceded playing time to Franklin Barreto and then Corban Joseph. As Profar then played sparingly for most of August, something seemed to change towards the end of the month and has been playing every day since August 24th.
Profar’s most recent spike, and most significant one at that, started just after his 400th plate appearance this season which was the same date we marked earlier – August 24th.
There has been a marked improvement across the board in batted ball metrics when comparing the two time periods. With fewer popups and ground balls while complemented with more line drives and flyballs, Profar has been able to truly break out over these past couple of weeks and at a time where the A’s are fighting for the top Wild Card spot. Let’s dive into what changed.
It All Starts With The Hands
Switch-hitting might be the hardest thing to do in sports. Trying to maintain just one swing and approach is hard enough – something that many hitters have struggled with. For a switch-hitter, you have to manage two swings and approaches, doubling the struggles that any single-sided hitter might face.
Remarkably, both these approaches are very similar between both hitters with their respective sides – of course, that’s generally not the case. Both hitters are rather open when hitting left-handed, finishing with one hand. In the other batter’s box, Sandoval and Teixeira are both noticeably closed, though still slightly open, while finishing with two hands on the bat.
From the right side of the plate, on his natural side, Profar has a similar setup and swing except finishing with one hand.
On the left side, there’s a completely different swing.
While hitting left-handed, Profar has many complexities to his swing. Starting with his hands dangling near his chest while standing open, Profar then coils as his hands move into the load position and the feet get in line towards the pitcher. After the swing, Profar finishes with both hands, so he’s not quite the same as Sandoval and Teixeira. Furthermore, Profar’s body seems to collapse when swinging from the left side, likely decreasing the power output that he should be getting if his body was more upright while swinging.
The right side is completely different, with his hands starting higher, a stance more closed, and only directing his momentum towards the pitcher instead of coiling and losing the direction of the swing. Additionally, Profar is taller through his swing and is allowed to get into his hips and legs more than the left-handed swing.
Over Profar’s career, the results have not reflected our assertions.
Though let’s break this down even further, starting since the beginning of last season.
In these past couple of seasons, Profar’s production has reflected our claims after looking at both stances. This season, there is a furthered divergence between the results.
This is backed by better plate discipline from the right side of the plate compared to the left.
In spite of a slightly better O-Swing% from the left side of the plate, Profar seems far more selective from the other side. He swings at fewer pitches overall, surprisingly a significant decrease in Z-Swing%, and adding much better line drive and barrel rates.
As a conjecture, we could say that Profar seems a lot more comfortable as a right-handed batter, where he’s not attacking everything he sees in the zone, rather finding his pitches and hitting them hard.
Compared to from the left side:
To this point, the plethora of tables and gifs of Profar’s stances have not connected to his blistering pace the past couple of weeks.
Now, look at Profar’s recent swing from the left side.
Profar is taller at the plate, with his hands higher and less arm movement while keeping his backside more upright through the swing. Sound familiar? It’s nearly a mirror image of his right-handed swing.
As a result, you can see how Profar has swung at pitches since August 24 from the left side.
He seems to be more comfortable at the plate, hunting pitches in zones that make him successful. Profar’s calmer stance has lead to a more mature and therefore more successful approach from that side of the plate.
Profar has finally found the approach that makes him successful from the left-handed batter’s box, adding a unique ability to hit well from the right side. Incorporating the recent offensive prowess with a rebounding defensive effort – last committing an error on August 4th – Profar is looking like a fine player alongside the other A’s infield stalwarts – Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Marcus Semien. Only 26 years old, Profar might become the next Curaçaoan star in the big leagues.
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)