Over the next few weeks, we'll take a look at some X factors for the club this season. A big one in 2014: Jurickson Profar.
Profar hit a grand slam in the Rangers' 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres in Thursday's Cactus League game. It was his third extra-base hit of the spring.
It's clear the Rangers want to get Profar as many at-bats as possible this spring. Because shoulder soreness slowed him down a bit, most of those at-bats have come at DH early in the spring before he transitions fully back to second base. Profar's bat has been solid. He's 9-for-29 with two doubles, a homer and 10 RBIs. Sure, some of those at-bats have been late in games against minor leaguers from other teams. But at this point, it's about getting plate appearances for Profar.
There's a reason Profar was the No. 1 prospect in baseball last season. But that was only on display in glimpses in 2013. He hit .234 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 85 games (286 at-bats) last season as he moved around to a variety of positions without a regular spot.
The Rangers, and some scouts I've talked to, believe staying at second base and having a regular spot in the lineup should give Profar a better chance to show off his bat, which was consistent in the minors.
That, of course, is the big question. Can Profar prove that all of the things written about his future will materialize in the present? The Rangers clearly believe Profar can live up to at least some of those expectations, trading Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder, allowing Profar the opening to start at second.
Profar, for his part, has not used the fact that he bounced around to different spots last year as a reason for his struggles.
"I'm not a guy that makes excuses," Profar said earlier this offseason. He said his focus is on learning from 2013 and getting better in 2014.
Manager Ron Washington has been pleased with Profar's progress on defense this spring, as he has worked on his foot work and learning some of the intricacies of second base, including developing chemistry with Elvis Andrus. Profar is throwing again and the next few weeks will be big for him in the field as he and Andrus try to get as much time together in games as they can.
But for all the talk of the top five spots in the Rangers' order, how Profar does in that bottom group -- not to mention how he does defensively at second base -- will have an impact on how balanced this lineup can be. It's time for Profar to move from prospect to player.