BY: Richard W. Humphrey
During Wednesday’s game against the Indians, the Rangers announced that Ian Kinsler had gone through a complete workout before the game that included taking ground balls, turning double plays and batting practice. After the workout, Ranger physician Keith Meister examined Kinsler and gave him medical clearance to undertake a minor league rehab assignment starting today. The plan is for Kinsler to DH on Thursday, and play second base on Friday and Saturday for AA Frisco in contemplation of being activated Sunday or Monday.
The news was somewhat unexpected as earlier reports had Kinsler being physically able to return no earlier than late next week and possibly not until the end of June. The return of Kinsler brings the Rangers to face the question – what to do with Jurickson Profar? Profar is regarded by many as the best prospect in minor league baseball. He has been with the Rangers for more than three weeks as Kinsler’s replacement and has done nothing to dissuade the thought. He has the talent, the poise, and the knowledge of the game to perform in the Majors right now.
There is no question that Kinsler will be welcomed back with open arms. Texas is 12-13 since Kinsler last started. As the number one batter in the Ranger batting order, he is sorely missed. Texas is simply not scoring runs in his absence. The highs in the month of June are 10 hits and six runs in a game, both accomplished just once. When the Rangers beat Detroit on May 16, the last game Kinsler started, they were in first place with a seven game lead over Oakland. When they woke up Thursday morning, they were in second place trailing the A’s by one game. They need him back.
All indications are that the Rangers are debating what to do with Profar when Kinsler returns. If he stays, he likely takes the back-up middle infielder roster spot held by Leury Garcia. For sure, Garcia has been disappointing in this role. His defense has been suspect, his base running disappointing, and he is hitting just .216 with no home runs and one RBI. Profar is clearly a better alternative. The question is really whether Profar would be better served playing every day at AAA.
One number that has been floated is 350 at-bats. That seems to be the pace of play at which it would be worth Profar’s while to stay with the Rangers. Is Ron Washington willing to commit that much playing time to Profar? If he is, the bulk of that playing time would come from Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. Is Washington willing to take away playing time from established veterans to make that much playing time available and what does a reduction of playing time do to those veterans?
There has been speculation of moving Kinsler to another position to accommodate Profar. Kinsler has stated that he does not want to do so this year, and certainly it would be best to decide on the switch in the off season to allow a full spring training to acclimate Kinsler to the new station. However, the Ranger batting order is full of holes right now. It would be a drastic move, but a switch now to the outfield would accommodate Profar and cure a problem area of the team. This is not likely to happen. It is simply not in Washington’s nature.
Another possibility is to send Profar to Round Rock and move him to the outfield. If the offensive situation doesn’t improve in Arlington, Profar could come back as an outfielder.
The old saying is that “baseball usually takes care of baseball questions”. Unless an injury arises, between now and Sunday or Monday when Kinsler is expected to be activated from the disabled list, the Rangers will be making the decision on Profar, not the baseball Gods. Profar himself has said that he expects to return to Round Rock. He hasn’t made it easy on the Rangers though. He’s hitting .292 with a .342 on-base percentage. He’s hit two home runs and driven in seven in 72 at-bats. It’s got to be difficult to cast out a quality hitter when the offense is struggling so much. Ranger fans will know the answer soon.
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