It’s been a long offseason. So long, in fact, that the co-founder of this very website — in what I can only assume was the result of intense boredom — subscribed to Twitter Blue. We’re officially at the point when your friends send minor transactions into your group chat and sarcastically state “STOVE!!” for the 85th time, a bit that’s gotten so old your soul flees into oblivion each time.
But while the biggest free agent signings and trades of the offseason have all seemingly unfolded, there’s one interesting player left: Jurickson Profar. That’s right, the guy with quite possibly the best smile in all of baseball remains a free agent.
Even in a landscape starved for news, you’d think we would have heard at least a whimper about Profar’s status by now. Perhaps this is just me being old, but Jurickson Profar used to be a household name — being hailed as perhaps the best prospect in all of baseball back when he was with the Rangers. Granted, that was about as far back as when Kony 2012 was a thing, but still!
On the surface, there are plenty of positives for the free agent outfielder. He’s been a fixture in baseball nerdom for a considerable amount of time and is coming off of the best fWAR season (2.5) of his career — all while being, remarkably, still just 29 years old.
He’s obviously not Shohei Ohtani, but he’s a patient hitter with a low strikeout, whiff, and chase rate; he ranked above the 79th percentile of hitters in all three categories last season. His age combined with those skills should theoretically make him a solid leadoff option for plenty of teams, and perhaps even some contenders at that.
So, what gives?
There are a bunch of factors here that a random schmuck on the internet like myself may be unable to attest to. Perhaps Profar’s asking price, behind the scenes, has been too high for teams to stomach. After all, even though he’s been in the majors for quite some time, Profar’s career is a tale of two halves. Forget the fWAR and walk rates; the most remarkable thing about Profar is that he’s managed to salvage what most would call a “bust” of a career.
Much of his early days were spent nursing crippling injuries that all but erased any kind of potential he had as one of baseball’s top prospects. He’s a great story, but given how much he’s struggled in the past, why pay up for a player that may be average at best?
Is it possible that most of Profar’s value peaked early on in the season?
In the first half of 2022, Profar slashed .241/.343/.394 with a 115 wRC+, and he even managed to tap into some power early on when the Padres were desperate for offensive production.
But then things got worse as the season went on, with his strikeout rate spiking and his walk rate dampening in the second half, with a wRC+ of just 104 to accompany it. If you’re being extremely liberal about it, perhaps the highly-publicized suspension of Fernando Tatis Jr. — with whom Profar was shown to be close — played a part in his downfall. Despite what the kid wearing the Princeton hoodie and printing out excel sheets about expected stats may say, these are still human beings.
But still, it’s more likely that Profar simply came back down to earth, given the large sample size of the years prior to 2022. Plus, while he’s done a decent job transitioning to the outfield, after much of his early-career buzz was bulldozed by injuries, his defense doesn’t stand out.
Even more than his offensive output, Profar’s defensive metrics looked less and less favorable the longer the season went on. He distracted bozos like myself with some of his early play, at one point racking up five outfield assists in a nine-game stretch.
This actually checks out well enough, because if you look at Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 67th percentile in arm strength. But, unfortunately, I don’t believe Profar has any CIA connections that could potentially blackout the rest of his Savant page, where his OAA (outs above average) ranked in just the 6th percentile of MLB players. If a player like Aaron Judge proved conventional wisdom wrong about buff guys being poor defenders, Profar might have proved the opposite about players with his relatively smaller build.
He isn’t particularly fast, doesn’t have the best reaction times, and you’ll certainly not see him making all that many web gems. Profar may not be a total liability in the outfield, but his bat isn’t quite elite enough to make up for it. He’s just average, and in a league where 75% of teams won’t even spend for the super-above-average players, that leaves Profar in a tough spot. A spot that leaves him without a team with just a little under 60 days until Opening Day.
But still, if there’s anything we need to settle down with as a society — aside from embracing artificial intelligence and robots — it’s to stop totally assuming what a player is going to produce because we skimmed their FanGraphs page. Profar has youth on his side, as well as a nice track record on a great Padres team; there will definitely be someone who gives him a shot.
It’s totally possible a team like the Yankees gives Profar a deal given their weird outfield situation. One interesting note about Profar is that of his 15 home runs in 2022, 12 of them were to right field. Perhaps the Yankees organization and management can use that to their advantage, just like Anthony Rizzo did by embracing the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
It would be a mighty tall task, for sure, but a solid, switch-hitting player like Profar could prove fruitful for a Yankees lineup that’s felt a bit stagnant over the last several seasons. Or, heck, they could just bring him in for his absolutely immaculate smile.
Either way, Jurickson Profar is incredibly likable, a good teammate, and could be the type of player that randomly makes a huge play in the playoffs for a contending team. Given his tumultuous career, he’s a quiet reminder to keep trying even if your best days may be behind you.