The Royals have had an aggressive off-season, and recent indications are they are not quite done yet. In a recent interview, Dayton Moore hinted that the club could add another bat, adding that “ideally” it would be a left-handed bat that could play at third base or in the outfield. According to MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman, the Royals are one of the teams pursuing free agent infielder/outfielder Jurickson Profar.
Padres are trying to bring back Jurickson Profar off his fine season, but the Royals are among other teams in play for Profar— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 21, 2020
Profar was a Little League World Series champion from Curaçao who signed with the Texas Rangers as a 16-year old. Although many teams saw him as a pitcher, the Rangers put him at shortstop. He reached the big leagues for a cup of coffee in 2012 as a 19-year old and he was the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. With Elvis Andrus entrenched at shortstop, Profar played all over the field. However he struggled offensively in his first few seasons in Texas, not hitting above league-average until 2018, when he hit .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs.
The Rangers decided a change of scenery was in order, so they shipped him to the Oakland Athletics in a three-team, seven-player trade that winter. His numbers slumped to .218/.301/.410 with 20 home runs in 139 games, so after just one season, the A’s shipped him to San Diego for two minor leaguers.
It was in San Diego that Profar had his best offensive season, by OPS+. He started off slow, hitting .181 over his first 30 games, but he finished strong, hitting .384 over his last 26 games. In the pandemic-shortened season, Profar hit .278/.343/.428 with seven home runs and seven steals in 56 games. He played mostly left field, but Profar has also appeared in at least 45 games in his career at each infield position - first base, second base, shortstop, and third base.
Profar brings a high-contact approach that the Royals have tried to bring to Kauffman Stadium. Over the last three seasons, he has struck out just 14.5 percent of the time, the 24th-best rate in baseball. He brings a decent walk rate as well, drawing free passes 9 percent of the time in his career.
His high contact rate has come at the expense of hard hit balls. Profar has put up one of the highest “soft contact” rates in baseball recently and he has one of the lowest average exit velocities in baseball. His offensive dip in 2019 seems largely due to an incredibly low BABIP of .218, which could be a reflection of bad luck, or it could be an indication that his lack of hard hits can hurt his offense. Despite his lack of exit velocity, he has put up two 20+ home runs seasons, and was on pace to exceed that mark again in 2020 in a full season.
Profar is a switch-hitter with pretty similar numbers from both sides of the plate. He hits more home runs from the left side, but hits for a better average and walks more from the right side. He has good speed, although he hasn’t racked up stolen base totals, with a career high of just ten in a season. He is 26-of-28 in stolen base attempts over the last three seasons and in that time he is 13th in baseball in Weighted Stolen Bases, which Fangraphs uses to estimate the number of runs a player contributes to his team by stealing bases.
His defense in the infield has been marked by inconsistency and errors, but he has shown promising defensive numbers in the outfield. In the infield, he can be prone to erratic throws, so he may be more comfortable playing outfield on a regular basis.
Profar turns 28 in February, which makes him one of the younger free agents available. Craig Edwards at Fangraphs projected Profar to get a two-year, $9 million deal while Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors projected one-year, $7 million. Profar may not have met the expectations of the #1 prospect in baseball, but he brings a good blend of youth, athleticism, and plate discipline that the Royals are bound to value.