Is It Legit: Jurickson Profar Heads to Oakland
We are now just a few days away from Christmas, and the MLB off-season is in full swing despite the holiday season being upon us. Lots of dominoes are still yet to fall, like where will OF Bryce Harper or SS/3B Manny Machado sign and for how much? While many have been focusing on the obvious names in play this offseason, the Oakland Athletics swooped in and made a trade to acquire the highly versatile SS Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers in a 3-team trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays. There are other components to the deal including RP Emilio Pagan and pitching prospect Brock Burke, but Profar is clearly the headliner, especially for those of us who play fantasy baseball. Let’s take a quick look at his potential impact in Oakland!
Profar has long been a high-profile name after being named a top 100 prospect by Baseball America before playing even playing a full-season level of minor league baseball in 2011, and then being considered the consensus #1 overall prospect in baseball two years later ahead of the 2013 season. Profar made his MLB debut in 2012 as a 19-year-old but struggled to establish himself in the following years between injury and lack of playing time issues. Fast forward to 2018, and Profar enters the season in a utility role, but quickly finds steady playing time due to multiple injuries in the Rangers infield including to 2B Roughned Odor, SS Elvis Andrus, and 3B Adrian Beltre. Profar got the opportunity to receive 500+ PAs for the first time in his career as a result, and here’s what he did with them and how he ranked among qualified shortstops:
As you can see, despite seeing slightly less PAs than the top shortstops, Profar largely contributed across the board as a top 10 level player at the position. Note that his .269 BAPIP stands out as perhaps being a little low given Profar’s batted ball profile which includes a 21.8% line-drive rate, a 43.9% groundball rate, and a 34.3% flyball rate along with an all-fields approach, all of which are reasonable and don’t point to a low BAPIP. In fact, xStats agrees as it has Profar pegged for a .270/.349/.430 batting line last season. Despite the poor BAPIP, Profar still ranked as the 19th best shortstop and 132nd best player overall in standard 5×5 leagues. With some better BAPIP performance going forward, you can make a case that Profar has top 100 overall upside. That’s obviously quite valuable, especially for a guy like Profar who will be eligible for multiple positions next year.
If we take a deeper look into Profar profile, we can see some reasons for optimism going forward. First, he hit the ball harder in 2018. In 2017, he posted a 26.1% Hard Contact rate and in 2018, he posted a 37.3% mark. That growth is supported Statcast wise too as Profar improved his average exit velocity from 83.1 MPH in 2017, to 87.3 MPH in 2018. That 87.3 MPH average exit velocity ranked ahead of names like Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon and Chicago Cubs 3b Kris Bryant. 2nd, his Statcast launch angle improved for the 2nd straight season and that gives hope that his ability to hit the ball harder this past year will continue to translate into power numbers. Not only that but if you take a look at Profar’s monthly batting splits, you’ll find that Profar made improvements throughout the season and was really a different player from June forward:
You can really see the initial struggles early in the season before righting the ship. September and October are particularly interesting to me because he posted his hardest hit rate, yet posted just a .250 BAPIP. The season-high 48.7% pull rate those months likely explains some of those BAPIP issues as pulling the ball that frequently makes him more likely to hit into the defensive positioning of the defense. That pull conscience approach along with a 35.1% flyball rate has me believing that Profar was actively trying to hit for more power during the last month and a bit of the season which if he had stayed in Texas next year, would have me believing in a potential 25 HR upside. The move to Oakland though presents Profar with a more difficult home ballpark to play in:
* Data is from RotoGrinders. Note that 1.0 is considered average. Anything in red is considered below average and anything in green is considered above-average.
Globe Life Park in Texas is clearly the better hitting ballpark, and Profar has logically done quite well at home given the hitting benefits of the stadium. Profar in 2018 hit .271/.362/.511 at home with 11 HRs good for a 123 wRC+ compared to .237/.307/.405 on the road with 9 HRs good for a 93 wRC+. That’s a pretty drastic home/road split, but do note that who league average home/road split in terms of wRC+ is 99 to 94 respectively so it’s not uncommon for players to perform better at home. Still, Profar’s split is wide and I do expect some slight decline on his home split numbers given the park factors, especially HR wise. Alternatively, Profar will now be aided by being surrounded with a better offense around him. The 2018 Texas Rangers posted a .240/.319/.404 team batting line which was good for a 90 wRC+. The 2018 Oakland Athletics posted a .252/.325/.439 team batting line and was worth a 110 wRC+ Overall, I anticipate the impact of the swap on Profar to be a close to break-even one at the plate plus the appeal of Profar’s low BABIP of 2018 correcting itself in 2019. Defensively, Profar is likely to move to 2B full-time where previously Free Agent 2B Jed Lowrie played. This move should be a good one for Profar as it where he graded best in 2018, and he should return defensive value there for the A’s. For those that play fantasy baseball, the news of Profar moving to 2nd base gives us yet another position to use him at, and he will now be able to play all of 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B at some point in fantasy next year. That positional flexibility plus a well-rounded skill-set makes Profar an intriguing glue player heading into 2019, and I can’t wait to see how he does!
(Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)