Jurickson Profar is likely to start the season in Triple-A, but he is a player to keep an eye on.
Heading into spring training, general manager Jon Daniels has said that the team has no plans right now to move Ian Kinsler from second base, meaning it's likely that Profar starts the 2013 season at Triple-A Round Rock. Kinsler's desire to stay where he is means Profar doesn't have an everyday spot. At least not yet.
But that doesn't mean that's the end of the Profar questions this spring. Everything in this game is subject to change. Something unexpected seems to happen every spring, usually in the form of injuries. The Miami New Times report that linked Nelson Cruz to a clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs could have an impact if an MLB investigation warrants a suspension for Cruz. Perhaps that alters Profar's fate if Ian Kinsler is moved to right field, for instance. But that's one of many options depending on what happens.
For now, though, let's say that things remain unchanged and that everyone is healthy (and no one is traded) and that Kinsler doesn't move to right field if something happens to Cruz. The Rangers have to weigh a few things. First, what's more beneficial to the club and to Profar: Starting him in the majors in a bench role or playing every day? I think they've already telegraphed how they feel about that. For someone as young as Profar, everyday at-bats are important. Profar got a taste of the big leagues last September, and surely at some point in 2013 he will get even more chances to play in the majors. But if no changes are made, he should start in the minors. It would be his first chance to face Triple-A pitching and see if he can have the same success he did against Double-A pitching in 2012 (.281 batting average with 14 homers, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 480 at-bats).
This spring is also a chance for everyone in camp to see Profar up close. They did some of that last spring, but it was different. Profar hadn't been in the big leagues yet. He hadn't debuted with a home run in his first major league at-bat or won another game with a big double late. Now he's the top prospect in the game, according to a few publications (ESPN.com's Keith Law has him No. 1 in his 2013 Top 100 prospects list), and all eyes will be on him. If Profar wields a hot bat under the pressure of having everyone -- media, scouts, teammates -- watching his every move, does that change things? And with Elvis Andrus playing in the WBC, Profar could get some more time at short this spring.
A month ago, there was no talk about Kinsler heading to spring to play some first base. But why not do that? Have him get a first base glove and take some reps over there. Yes, most of his work should be at second. But what's the harm in having him start to learn another position just in case Profar is ready? Maybe it's not March 31. But if Profar is hitting well in Triple-A the first two months and the Rangers need a spark, perhaps a move could be made then.
It certainly won't hurt Profar to get some at-bats in Triple-A. But it's clear he's knocking on the door to the big leagues and he could be ready at any time. While Texas wouldn't worry about saving a year of service time with Profar when it comes to roster decisions, having him stay the first six weeks or so in the minors would have the added advantage of preventing him from accruing enough time for one full year of service. He would end up hitting that in 2014 instead of 2013, backing up when he'd become a free agent.
But that's only a secondary issue. How well Profar does this spring and how the rest of the team is looking could create more questions. As it stands now, Profar seems headed to Triple-A to start 2013. That won't keep all of us from watching is every move this spring and talking about his situation, of course. That's what happens when you're one of the best prospects in the game.
How do you see the spring and the 2013 season playing out for Profar?