Continuing in our series on Texas Rangers represented in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, we go to The Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch Nationals always seem to fly under the radar.
A four time Olympic-level participant, the Netherlands team has surprised the world on several occasions, beating Cuba in the 2000 Olympics, the 2011 World Cup, and twice during the last World Baseball Classic. In 2009, the team eliminated one of this year’s favorites, the Dominican Republic.
It is here we find a Ranger once on top of the world as the former number one prospect in all of baseball – Jurickson Profar. Profar will rep his country once again after starring for the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao in the 2004 and 2005 Little League World Series. With Pabao Little League team from Willemstad, Profar won the '04 Little League World Series Championship.
However, Profar is still struggling to find a permanent home on the Rangers roster. With the re-return of Mike Napoli, the 24-year old’s shot at a platoon job at first base has become out of reach. Last Friday afternoon, Peter Gammons dropped this little tidbit from the Manager of the Netherlands’ team.
Hensley Meulens says Jurickson Profar will play outfield in WBC. Rangers told him that's where he'll play after signing Napoli— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 24, 2017
The news of Profar being shifted entirely to the outfield opens up the possibilities for the former shortstop in the WBC. Getting regular playing time as an infielder was going to be difficult, as Profar faces a similar problem on the dirt as he does with the Rangers. The Netherlands team is clogged with talent in the form of Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons and former Pabao Little League teammate Jonathan Schoop.
In a Netherlands outfield fronted by minor leaguers, including Frisco’s Chris Garia, and Wladimir Balentien (last seen in the Majors in 2009), Profar could get a lot of exposure on the grass. Rangers fans would do well to make like the front office and pay attention to how Jurickson fields his position during the WBC.
Logging just 18 games (12 starts) as a left fielder for Texas in 2016, getting reps during competitive action is a huge opportunity for Profar. With a fourth outfielder position and utility bench player position very much a wide open race, Profar can get a leg up on the rest of his Rangers competition during this tournament.
With the defense must also come offensive production. Last year, Profar batted in a Major League high number of games – 90. Due to the inconsistent playing time, his slash line - .239/.321/.338 – looks similar to his previous Major League stint - .234/.308/.336 over 85 games.
This is, of course, a far cry from an approximate potential line of .280/.385/.450 that led to his ascension as the top prospect in the game a few years ago, but without a regular rhythm to fall into, Profar may never get there. The regular time in the outfield over the three weeks of the World Baseball Classic won’t be a bad thing since he won’t be guaranteed regular playing time over the Rangers’ regular season.
The WBC will serve as Profar’s showcase, not only for the Rangers, but for other teams. Increasing his versatility by getting regular time in the outfield, along with showcasing his bat, would go a long way towards rebuilding his value as a trade piece. It will likely never get to the point it was after the 2012 season, but, like his native Netherlands, he can come from out of nowhere to surprise the world again.
The Netherlands opens the tournament against Korea in Seoul on March 7th at 3:30 AM local time.
Follow Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB as he follows the World Baseball Classic this spring.