Profar feeling comfortable

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Less than two weeks after his 18th birthday, shortstop Jurickson Profar got four at-bats in major league spring training games. Lone Star Dugout interviewed the switch-hitting prospect to talk about his development and experience in big league camp.

When it became time for Jurickson Profar to sign on July 2, 2009, there was plenty of debate on his future role. Many teams liked Profar as a pitcher––after all, he has a loose arm and touched 93 mph on the mound as a 16 year old. Other teams preferred him as a shortstop.

The ultimate decider was Profar, who said he wanted to play and impact the game every day instead of once every five days. The Curacao native eventually signed with the Rangers––as a shortstop––for a reported $1.55 million.

Profar impressed and made a name for himself almost immediately after signing with the Rangers. At Fall Instructional League just a few months after he signed in '09, the young Profar earned praise for his leadership qualities on the field. He more than fit in with his performance, as well.

The switch-hitting prospect made his much-anticipated professional debut when short-season Spokane began its schedule in June last year. On the whole, Profar had his ups and downs, as would be expected from a 17 year old competing against mostly 21- and 22-year-old competition. In 63 contests, Profar finished the season with a .250 batting average, 19 doubles, four homers, and eight stolen bases. He walked 28 times and had 46 strikeouts.

Profar improved as the Indians' season progressed. He played in 23 games in August, posting a .284/.354/.477 slash line with 10 walks and 13 strikeouts.

Although Profar may not have a sky-high ceiling, his extreme polish allows him to compete against much older players at a young age. Even after physical maturation, the 5-foot-11 prospect should be able to stick at shortstop, where he has a plus arm and profiles for above-average range through the help of his advanced instincts.

Offensively, Profar shows good pitch recognition skills and a disciplined eye––two aspects most players his age certainly don't possess. His bat speed and all-fields approach from both sides of the plate help him project to have a plus hit tool, and he should develop average power down the line.

In spring training last year, Profar spent most of his time taking batting practice and ground balls––but he didn't appear in any games before camp broke. That's different this year. The Rangers have had the young prospect appear in three big league games this spring. Profar got four at-bats, going 1-for-4 with a double and a run batted in.

Profar will almost certainly progress forward to Single-A Hickory out of camp this year, where he should play for the full season. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 18-year-old shortstop after Wednesday's intrasquad games.

Jason Cole: You got some action in big league spring training games earlier in camp. How was it to be on the field with those guys?

Jurickson Profar: It was really good. I was a little nervous at first––during the first game. And then it was normal.

Cole: How many games did you get in there?

Profar: Three.

Cole: In one of your at-bats, you hit a double to deep left field. Can you take me through that plate appearance?

Profar: I was looking for a fastball––to hit it hard. He threw me a changeup a little high, and I was able to get it.

Cole: When you're out there with guys almost twice your age sometimes, do you feel like you fit in?

Profar: You don't feel like you fit in, but you have to play. Just play.

Cole: You got to play in Spokane last year, once again against competition that was older than you. How'd you feel about your performance there?

Profar: For me, it was normal. It was a normal year for me. I know I can do better than that, though.

Cole: What part of your offensive game did you feel improved out there?

Profar: I'm more comfortable playing now. I know the pitchers better. Last year was my first professional season. This year I just feel more comfortable looking at pitches––looking at breaking pitches and stuff.

Cole: This time last year, you were just easing into pro ball and now you've been around the block a bit. What are some of the bigger differences?

Profar: Now I'm just more comfortable and confident. I have more confidence in myself. They help me every day.

Cole: What did you do over the offseason to prepare for this year?

Profar: I was just practicing––doing the things that I have to do. I was lifting weights and working on my speed and stuff.

Cole: What are you working on at the plate right now?

Profar: To just see the pitches. I'm working on recognizing the breaking pitches. I'm a fastball hitter. I always look for a fastball. I don't go to swing on bad pitches. Sometimes it happens, but I'm not looking for that.

Cole: What are you looking for out of yourself for this season?

Profar: Just to have a better season than last year.

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