Four Rangers prospects among game's best
Profar, Perez, Olt and Martin all rated highly by MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Jurickson Profar had an offensive power surge at Class A Hickory last summer. At 18 years old, Profar hit 37 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs and finished with a .493 slugging percentage.That's pretty impressive for a 5-foot-11, 165-pound shortstop playing in his first full season in the Minor Leagues. But that's not what impressed Hickory manager Bill Richardson the most about a player who has now risen to become the No. 1 prospect in the Rangers organization. "Generally when you see a guy with power, he's still struggling with his strikeouts," Richardson said. "But this kid's walks to strikeouts stayed level: 65 walks and 63 strikeouts. He has incredible high-level hand/eye coordination. When we just needed a single he would have these 13-pitch at-bats and knew how to put the ball in play." Profar's terrific season for the Crawdads earned him the Most Valuable Player honors in the South Atlantic League and the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year Award for the Rangers farm system. Now he is ranked seventh in MLB.com's top 100 prospects released Wednesday. Profar is one of four Rangers to make the top 100. He is joined by pitcher Martin Perez (No. 29), infielder Mike Olt (No. 43) and outfielder Leonys Martin (No. 89). This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
Profar, among his many accomplishments, finished 25th in the South Atlantic League in slugging percentage. Out of that group, he was the only player with at least 200 at-bats who had more walks than strikeouts. Bryce Harper, the Nationals' highly regarded hitting prospect, had 44 walks against 61 strikeouts.That Profar was able to do that is even more remarkable considering Richardson said his young shortstop had some issues early in the season with the umpires. "Basically, he was acting his age," Richardson said. "But as the season went along he started to understand that the way he was going about his business wasn't going to go over well with other managers and umpires." Once Profar understood that, he started earning respect. It was the opposing managers who selected him as the league's MVP. "No. 1, in his first full season, to put the numbers that he did at that age and all it took to do it was incredible," Richardson said. "On the field, what he does to attract attention, at the plate, in the field and on the bases, he just creates havoc. His tool set is so dynamic but the best part is his inside matches his outside. "Because he's so coachable, there are not many baseball hurdles that he can't overcome because of his work ethic, ability and talent. He'll take anything you tell him regarding baseball and take it out with him on the field. He just has tremendous assets." Richardson said Profar is just coming into his strength but he also has excellent speed. He had 23 stolen bases to go with his 37 doubles and eight triples. Of the top 25 players in the league in slugging percentage, only one had more stolen bases, only one had more doubles and none of those 25 had more triples. He did commit 22 errors in the field. That actually is relatively impressive. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, as good as there is defensively in the Major Leagues, committed 32 errors while playing in the South Atlantic League at age 18. Derek Jeter was 19 when he played in the South Atlantic League and committed 56 errors. Erick Aybar, who was the AL Gold Glove winner at shortstop this past season, had 32 errors at age 19 in the low Class A Midwest League. Andrus, Jeter and Aybar are all in the Major Leagues. Profar, who played for Curacao in the Little League World Series in 2004 and 2005, is just getting started. The biggest question with him is if the Rangers will start him at Class A Myrtle Beach or jump him to Double-A Frisco. That will be decided in Spring Training. What has already been decided is that Profar right now is the top prospect in the Rangers system and ranked seventh overall in baseball.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.