Former Top Prospect Is Showing Path to Stardom Is Not Always Linear

It took a long time, but Jurickson Profar is capitalizing on his potential. He's proving that the path to stardom is not always a simple one.

Jurickson Profar of the San Diego Padres smiles.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 28: Jurickson Profar #10 of the San Diego Padres smiles during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Petco Park on May 28, 2024 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Matt Moore. Bryce Harper. Mike Trout. Julio Teheran. Shelby Miller. Manny Machado. Jurickson Profar. Jameson Taillon. Trevor Bauer. Dylan Bundy.

This was the top 10 prospect list from MLB Pipeline in 2012. Just by looking at some of the names, there are future Hall of Famers, multi-time award winners and busts alike. A bit further down the list is the likes of Manny Banuelos, Jesus Montero and Danny Hultzen, none of whom made any sort of impact at the big league level.

As we’ve established time and time again, prospects are a funny thing. These young players frequently seem to be the future of Major League Baseball, but injuries and underperformance always find a way to shine through, regardless of the raw talent a player shows during his ascent to the big leagues.

Few have been through as much adversity as Profar, who signed with the Rangers as an IFA in 2009. Over the past decade-plus, he has gone from can’t-miss prospect to bust to All-Star candidate. At one point, he was supposed to be the next big thing at shortstop for the Rangers. He’s turning things around in 2024, but not with the Rangers and not at shortstop.

Ad – content continues below

Profar’s unique journey to get to where he is now should serve as a reminder to everyone, including fellow struggling prospects, that the path to success in the big leagues is not always linear.

Sometimes it isn’t as simple as shooting through the minor leagues and immediately finding success in the majors.

The Winding Path of Jurickson Profar

Profar signed his deal with the Rangers at the age of 16. He immediately began to crack top prospect lists around the league as soon as 2011 at the age of 18. In his first few professional seasons, he immediately showed an outstanding blend of power, speed and patience on offense.

The Rangers would probably tell you they botched Profar’s development by having him debut at just 19. They’d be right. Despite the fact that he hit a home run in his first big league at-bat, he played in 94 games with a .231 average and .645 OPS before he hit the legal drinking age.

A shoulder injury kept Profar out of action for not only the entirety of the 2014 campaign, but 2015, too. By this point, the “B” word (bust) started to enter the conversation. This was only further amplified when he hit .227 with a 67 OPS+ across 112 games between 2016 and 2017.

Suddenly, this shiny top prospect no longer had any shine. He then got passed up on the depth chart by names like Ryan Rua, Rougned Odor and Hanser Alberto.

Ad – content continues below

Change of Scenery

Following a strong 2018 showing for the Rangers, Profar, an obvious change-of-scenery candidate by this point, was flipped to the division rival Oakland A’s in a three-team deal. He spent just one year there before being moved in another deal, this time to the San Diego Padres.

It took a bit, but Profar finally began to produce at the big league level, albeit nowhere close to what he was predicted to do years before. From 2019-2023, the switch-hitting utilityman hit 55 home runs and had a respectable but not great OPS+ of 94.

A single-year stint in Oakland, three in San Diego, half a season in Colorado and then another 14 games back on the Padres. This is what a former can’t-miss prospect was reduced to in the not-so-distant past.

However, the Padres clearly saw just enough out of Profar to warrant another deal. In 49 plate appearances, he had a .295 average, walked (5) more than he struck out (4) and had a .776 OPS. Small sample size be damned, he turned that cameo into one of the more notable bounce-backs in recent memory.

What has been so impressive about Profar’s recent performance is that he doesn’t really have anything to bounce back to. In around 1,000 games leading up to this year, he has never done as well as he is right now. But now, there’s not even a shred of doubt that he belongs in the big leagues.

The Breakout Is Finally Upon Us

11 years into his professional career, Jurickson Profar is officially breaking out. This wasn’t a development anybody could’ve predicted, but he’s suddenly one of the very best hitters in the National League. Not to mention, he’s also one of the cheapest. After that brief appearance last year, the Padres re-upped with Profar on a one-year, $1 million contract.

Ad – content continues below

Now 31-years old, Profar already has 12 doubles, 10 home runs, 45 runs batted in and 39 more runs scored. His .324 batting average is good for second amongst qualified batters in the NL and his .424 OBP leads the league. To put that into perspective, his OBP is 12 points higher than Mookie Betts, 23 higher than Freddie Freeman and 34 higher than Bryce Harper.

He’s walking at a 14.8% clip, too, which is the highest in his entire career. Not to mention that he’s also leading all of baseball with 71 games played this year.

NL Ranks (Amongst Qualified Hitters)

Clearly, Profar is seeing the ball well. A peek at his Baseball Savant page confirms that he’s seeing it and hitting it much better than he ever has over the course of his career.

In recent years, he’s doesn’t chase or whiff much and he typically ranks amongst the league’s best in both strikeout and walk rates. He hadn’t hit the ball all that hard but still found a way to get on base. This year, he’s up to the 92nd percentile in xwOBA and 95th in xBA, much higher than where he’d been in years past.

Thanks to a dramatic leg kick he added this year over his previous side-step at the plate, there’s a ton more power being generated, and a more level bat path has improved his launch angle and allowed him to hit more line drives.

Another way that Profar is improving upon his career norms is his performance against offspeed pitches. From 2021-2023, his batting average against them was .118, .263 and then .156. This year? He’s up to .378.

Ad – content continues below

Jurickson Profar: All-Star

Profar needs to be a member of his first career All-Star Game. Playing on a Padres roster without Xander Bogaerts and multiple starting pitchers, he’s been a bring spot on a team that needs one.

He even had an injury scare himself on Tuesday evening when he left the game early with a knee injury. According to Padres manager Mike Shildt, the concern level is low, and that Profar is day-to-day with knee soreness.

Recently, saying Profar finds a way to become an All-Star-caliber player in 2024 may induce some laughs. A decade ago, it’d be obvious and an inevitability. Again, not all prospects find the path to the majors to be smooth and simple. Profar is living proof of that. The switch-hitter is playing the best baseball of his career and it seems that his sky-high potential is once again shining through.