Jurickson Profar Is the San Diego Padres’ King of Vibes

Jurickson Profar is the latest example that the value of a ballplayer goes well beyond what you can find on an Excel spreadsheet.

Jurickson Profar of the San Diego Padres reacts after being called for a strike on an attempted checked swing during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 21: Jurickson Profar #10 of the San Diego Padres reacts after being called for a strike on an attempted checked swing during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 21, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, there’s a scene in which Captain Picard (played by the legendary Patrick Stewart) comes across the spaceship that first achieved warp drive and consequently led to the age of space exploration in which the universe of Star Trek takes place.

Picard finds himself placing his hand on the ship, which confuses his friend Data (played by Brent Spiner), an android that is fascinated by the complex and sometimes irrational emotions of human beings. He doesn’t understand why touching the ship could make it feel any more real. 

It’s not logical, and Picard explains that sometimes it’s essentially about the vibes, not any more quantifiable and scientific analysis. In baseball, and sports in general, there are many players who evoke feelings that you can’t simply trace to statistical output. The latest such player, in this writer’s humble opinion, is Jurickson Profar.

That’s right, Jurickson Profar is a man of vibes. We should remember that the game is more than pulling up an Excel spreadsheet or FanGraphs. If it were, there’d be little point in caring so much about it.

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A while ago, I wrote about why Kevin Gausman’s story as an initially floundering prospect who unexpectedly turned into the ace he is today is such a beautiful thing. 

Profar has followed a similar career arc, but only in the former prospect sense. Many view him as just a simple role player, but that’s hardly the case. He wouldn’t be the first player to develop a cult fandom (or even the first Padres player), but he serves as yet another reminder of baseball being more than meets the eye. 

That isn’t to say, however, that Profar is some sort of scrub on the field whose only saving grace is his smile of immense power. In 2024, he has compounded his immaculate vibes with spectacular on-field play. Across 20 games, he’s slashing .313/.413/.500 with 2 home runs and a 157 wRC+ — the latter being the best mark of any Padres player with at least 50 plate appearances.

But while those numbers are fantastic unto themselves, it’s more about the stark contrast from this season to last that adds to Profar’s great tale.

In 2023, despite having his best career season with the Padres the year before (2.5 fWAR in 2022), he languished away in free agency for most of the offseason. Finally, he signed a one-year, $7.75 million deal with the Colorado Rockies.

One would think, given his solid 2022 play, that this was a bargain for Colorado. It was decisively not. 

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Profar’s 2023 was, instead, a disaster. He slashed .242/.321/.368 with nine home runs and an anemic 76 wRC+. Combine that with his shockingly horrible defensive output (-11 DRS, -13 OAA), and Profar was good for a NEGATIVE fWAR in the follow-up to his career season with San Diego.

His -1.7 fWAR was the worst among all qualified players in 2023. “Yikes” would be putting it too lightly. 

And that’s what makes Profar’s latest stop in San Diego so fascinating. The Padres have often been criticized for not getting the best from their talent, yet Profar is an exception that smashes through that rule like the Hulk. Again, they put this man in COORS FIELD last season, and he’s still hitting significantly better with the Padres.

It’s not entirely flukey, either, as he’s managed not just the best hard-hit rate of his career (51%) but also the best average exit velocity (92.7 mph, more than 6 mph better than in 2023). 

Of course, this level of performance likely will not continue. His early success this season might just be a sign that he can return to what he did with the Padres in 2022. But if that is all that is…who cares? Jurickson Profar is a player whose special qualities aren’t tied directly to his performance. People like Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who on Saturday called Profar “irrelevant”, ought to appreciate that more

While I’d argue Smith’s comments were a decent representation of the unearned bravado that the Dodgers and their fanbase often exude, it was likely something he regrets, or at the very least was a poor choice of words. 

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Because Jurickson Profar is anything but irrelevant. 

It’s the smile. It’s the attitude. It’s the fact that, despite not living up to his top-prospect hype from many moons ago, he’s still soldiered on. It’s that he seems to be, for some unknown reason, significantly better for the San Diego Padres over anyone else. He’s a reminder that baseball, and sports, have more to offer than the binary, linear viewpoints of good and bad, or even winning and losing.