Second baseman Jurickson Profar rode the bench in favor of the just-promoted Corban Joseph for the Athletics’ victory over the Giants on Wednesday. It’s the beginning of a trend for Profar, who’s in for a “greatly reduced role,” Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Most of the switch-hitting Profar’s action will come against left-handed pitchers, Slusser explains, with the lefty-swinging Joseph and righty Chad Pinder set to eat into his playing time.
A late-season reduction in at-bats for Profar isn’t what the Athletics had in mind when they acquired him last winter, especially now that they’re locked in a playoff race. The addition of Profar from Texas in a three-way trade that also included Tampa Bay cost Oakland standout reliever Emilio Pagan and infield/outfield prospect Eli White. It didn’t look like an unreasonable price to pay for Profar, a once-prized prospect who finally lived up to some of his past promise in 2018. After largely disappointing from 2012-17, Profar batted .254/.335/.458 (108 wRC+) with 20 home runs, 10 steals and 2.9 fWAR as a 25-year-old last season.
The A’s likely expected more of the same from Profar this season, if not an even better performance. Instead, though, Profar has batted a miserable .205/.268/.382 (70 wRC+) through 395 PA. While Profar has swatted 15 homers and totaled seven more steals, his weak batting line and subpar reviews at second (minus-10 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-0.8 Ultimate Zone Rating), have limited him to a replacement-level impact in 2019. It may go down as the lone year with the Athletics for Profar. While he still has another season of arbitration control, in which Profar will hope to earn a raise over his current salary of $3.6MM, Slusser casts doubt on the possibility of him returning to the team in 2020.
Regardless of what his future holds, Profar – to his credit – is taking his demotion in stride, as he told Slusser: “I don’t feel like I’ve been contributing like I’m capable of, so I’m OK with it. I’ll just keep working and try to find it.”
Profar’s troubles have come against righties, who have held him to a .177/.245/.372 line (compared to a solid .304/.353/.418 versus lefties). A deeper dive into Profar’s numbers does indicate some bad fortune has factored into his woes. Profar has typically run low batting averages on balls in play in his career, evidenced by his lifetime .257 BABIP, but this year’s .205 mark is way down even by his standards. Meanwhile, according to Statcast, his .302 expected weighted on-base average easily outpaces his .278 real wOBA. Profar also remains difficult to strike out, having done so at a 15.2 percent clip this year.
Granted, those aren’t overwhelming positives, so the Athletics want to explore alternatives at the keystone. Manager Bob Melvin told Slusser the A’s aren’t “getting as much production as we want at that position, so maybe you look elsewhere.” That’ll lead them to Joseph, a 30-year-old with a mere 31 major league plate appearances under his belt.