Profar off to a promising start

SURPRISE, Ariz. - At 16-years-old, shortstop Jurickson Profar was much younger than most of his competition at Fall Instructional League, but that didn't stop him from standing out among the pack. Lone Star Dugout interviews and features the talented Curacao native.

Jurickson Profar wasn't the most sought-after position player on the Latin American free agent market this past summer.

In fact, as a shortstop, he wasn't in particularly high demand. Most teams liked him as a pitcher.

But the Texas Rangers believed in Profar's potential as a shortstop. They believed enough to give him a club-record $1.55 million signing bonus.

Although it's still early, the move appears to be paying off thus far, as all early returns have been positive. Profar recently stood out at his first Fall Instructional League, flashing an outstanding skillset and maturity beyond his years.

Yet, according to those who covered the July 2 international signing date, only one other team seriously considered signing him as a shortstop.

"I don't know," said Profar when asked how many teams liked him as a shortstop. "Every team came to me and talked to me for pitching. And then on the last month, I went to the Rangers and had a couple of tryouts. Then I signed with the Rangers."

Most other teams loved the 16-year-old because of his arm. Despite the young age, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound youngster can hit 93 mph on the radar gun and he breaks off a sharp slider, making him potentially one of the game's top pitching prospects.

The issue? Profar just doesn't enjoy pitching.

"I like to play everyday," he said. "I like to make plays and bat. As a pitcher, you don't play. You pitch one day and then you need to rest for four days and then play again. I don't like that."

Many teams continued to doubt Profar's bat, all the way up to the July 2 signing date. Some experts have projected he will hit no higher than the Mendoza line for a few seasons before moving back to the mound.

The Rangers don't believe that to be the case, and they've seen more of him than any team.

The Rangers are confident in Profar's abilities.
"[The Rangers] saw me a lot of times," Profar said. "I went over to the Dominican complex in January. I was doing good there at shortstop. [General Manager] Jon Daniels and [Manager] Ron Washington were there for about a week."

Prior to signing, he also got to visit the club's big league stadium in Arlington. It was there that the switch-hitting Profar took batting practice prior to the game–and he hit a home run from each side of the plate.

When Profar refused to pitch in professional baseball, rumors began swirling about his lack of desire or overall poor makeup.

After Fall Instructional League, that has proven to be the furthest thing from the truth.

Simply put, Profar is a natural leader.

"I think he has real leadership skills and real leadership ability," instructs manager Jayce Tingler said. "Being able to be 16, yet he takes charge of the diamond, and that's what you want out of your shortstop."

The shortstop speaks the four languages learned in his native Curacao–English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamentu.

Though the last two aren't particularly important in the world of baseball, the first two are. Any player who can speak both English and Spanish is able to communicate with virtually all of his teammates from day one.

Despite Profar's modest background, he is also used to the big stage, and he has already played on national television in the United States, as he starred in the 2005 Little League World Series in Pennsylvania.

Profar actually played against 17-year-old Rangers prospect Richard Alvarez, who was with Team Venezuela.

"Back in those days, I was also a hitter," said Alvarez of his Little League days. "I pitched against Curacao and shut them down. I also hit a grand slam in that game.

"The pitcher from Curacao that day just signed with Texas for more than a million dollars. They signed him as a shortstop. Jurickson Profar."

The two met again last January while Profar was trying out at the club's complex in the Dominican Republic. Alvarez and Profar are now teammates on the instructs team.

Coming in with experience on the big stage, Profar isn't about to be rattled by a few older players. Nearly half of his opponents at instructs are at least 21-years-old, having attended a four-year college in the U.S. The Rangers did their best to prepare him for the experience.

"They told me that I would come here and play every day," he said. "They said the other teams all have bigger guys. But they just told me that I can come here and play every day with the bigger guys."

Profar isn't fazed. In fact, he is rising up to the challenge. The kid stole the show with his dazzling play at Instructional League.

"I'm playing the best," said Profar with a wide smile on his face. "This is the best I've ever played."

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