Thursday, July 5, 2012
Jurickson Profar is something special
By Clint Foster
ARLINGTON, Texas -- "Special" is one of Jurickson Profar's favorite adjectives. He uses it all the time in conversation. Perhaps it is fitting that the best adjective to describe Profar on and off the field is just that: special.
He has been turning heads ever since he first entered the Texas Rangers' lauded farm system in 2010. Mike Olt, his teammate and another top prospect for the Rangers, said he knew Profar was something special ever since he first saw him on the Rangers' rookie-league team in Spokane, Wash.
Rangers prospect and Frisco RoughRider Jurickson Profar is headed back to the MLB Futures All-Star Game on Sunday.
"I thought he was really good there," the third baseman for the Frisco RoughRiders said. "I think a lot of his progression has come with maturity. He's really mature for his age. I think that helps his game. He understands the game really well, and it’s fun to watch."
It is rare to find a young player with the sheer amount of raw talent, potential and humble attitude that Profar has. Many scouts have praised the shortstop/second baseman for the RoughRiders as a top-five prospect. ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked Profar as the second-best minor league prospect in baseball. Profar can also add a selection to the Texas League All-Star team and an invitation to the 2012 MLB Futures All-Star Game to his list of honors this season.
Profar will make his second consecutive appearance in the Futures Game on Sunday as part of the World Team. At 19 years old, Profar will be the second-youngest player in the game.
"It feels great," Profar said. "I was working hard to go back this year. I really liked it last year, playing with those guys. There are some great players out there, and to be part of it was a good thing. It's going to be fun."
Profar hails from Curacao, a small island in the Caribbean just north of Venezuela. Curacao, along with Aruba and Bonaire, make up the "ABC islands," which are constituents of the Netherlands. Curacao has produced many professional baseball players, including Andruw Jones of the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. Profar said he is proud to be a part of that legacy.
"We are a small island, and to have good players like that is special," he said.
In his hometown of Willemstad, Profar got started with baseball at an early age. When he was 11 years old, he competed in his first of two consecutive Little League World Series, winning the championship in 2004. The trip to Williamsport, Pa., was Profar's first time in the United States. He said that competing on an international level in front of so many people was not only a great experience but also ultimately helped get him to where he is today.
As a member of the Rangers' Double-A affiliate, Profar has the fourth-best batting average among RoughRiders at .295 with 19 doubles, six triples, nine home runs and 39 RBIs while slugging .481. What stands out most is his speed on the base paths, indicative by his nine stolen bases this season, and his skills on defense.
"He comes better than advertised," manager Steve Buechele said. "He's a great kid that loves playing, and he's a heck of a baseball player. There were concerns about him jumping a level and coming here, but I think he's handled it as good as he possibly can. He's on the All-Star team, and he's played like an All-Star."
"He's just a great competitor," hitting coach Jason Hart said. "He's got great hand-eye coordination, twitch muscles, and his heart and competitive edge at the plate really put him over the top."
Another thing that gives Profar an advantage over many international players is that he has a firm grasp on the English language. In addition to his native Papiamento, he speaks three languages, a phenomenon that is extremely common in his home country.
"Some other people over there speak like 10 languages," Profar said. "We learn it in school. It’s something special, understanding what your managers and coaches are trying to do with you. It helps a lot."
Profar certainly puts his understanding of English to good use. Buechele said that Profar's coachability is just another one of his many positive attributes.
"He just eats up everything you teach him," Buechele said. "He's just a wonderful kid who wants to get better. He's not afraid to fail, and the best part about him is he's not afraid to be great either."
Like any great player, Profar puts all of his attributes toward one goal: helping his team win. Frisco sits in third place in the Texas League South standings and is looking to improve. Profar said he loves playing for Frisco and is willing to do anything to help the team, including playing multiple defensive positions.
"We're a great team," Profar said. "I've got great teammates. We play together as a team, and that's what you want. We're closer to Arlington here, so everybody kind of looks to us. That's why we have to play hard every day and try to win every day."
Temporary goals aside, there is no denying that the ultimate pinnacle for Profar, like any prospect, is getting called up to the major leagues. Although the Rangers may not need his position yet, he could be playing at a high enough level to be called up anyway.
"That's going to be special," Profar said. "That's what I’m working for, you know? I want to be over there, so that's why I'm working hard every day. We'll see what happens."
Profar said that when he does get that call, the first person he will let know is his grandmother, Victoria. Victoria raised him and is his most beloved relative. But she has yet to see him play in America.
"She's scared of an airplane, so she won't come," Profar said. "When I get to the major leagues, she will come for sure."
In that case, Victoria had better start getting over her fear. While Profar may be turning heads in the minor leagues today, it won't be long before he gets his chance to play on baseball's biggest stage. And that will be something special.