When the Yankees first signed DJ LeMahieu two years ago, they originally brought him on to serve as an everyday utility infielder, playing in the lineup on a regular basis and rotating between first, second, and third base to keep everybody fresh. Whether or not the Yankees keep The Machine in pinstripes, however, this utility infield job will remain unfilled, as LeMahieu would be the starting second baseman. As of now, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada are the only two potential backups on the roster defensively capable of filling in this role, and neither have shown enough with the bat to warrant everyday plate appearances.
Once considered the top prospect in baseball as a 19-year-old wunderkind following the 2012 season, Jurickson Profar’s career has very much not gone according to plan. Expected to be the Rangers’ Opening Day starter at second base in 2014, he instead would go on to miss the entirety of the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to a shoulder injury that he kept reaggravating until finally receiving surgery prior to the 2015 season. After bouncing around between a Ben Zobrist-type starting job, a backup role, Triple-A, and the injured list, he would be traded twice — first to the Oakland Athletics for 2019, and then to the San Diego Padres for the 2020 season.
At first glance, it might appear that Profar has started to finally pay dividends on his old prospect status, notching a 113 OPS+ in 2020 and posting a prorated 162-game average line of .243/.323/.434 with 16 home runs, 22 doubles, and a 101 OPS+ over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, the Statcast data anticipate severe regression: his 87.2 mph exit velocity, 3.2 percent barrel rate, and 27.7 percent hard-hit rate rank among the worst in the league, and a .342 BABIP after August 10th helped to substantially inflate his numbers.
If there’s one positive to Profar’s offensive game, it is his ability to make contact, as his 13.9 percent K rate in 2020 was in the 92nd percentile of the league; his problem solely rests in the fact that he just that he struggles to make hard contact.
The situation only gets worse for him, though. A player with Profar’s luck-reliant bat requires good defensive capabilities at a multitude of positions in order to justify regular playing time for a contending team. Profar’s glove, however, is more reminiscent of Gleyber Torres’s than LeMahieu’s: just because he can play a multitude of positions does not mean he should. Over the course of his career, he has accrued -20 DRS and -5 OAA in 1,674.2 innings at second base, -3 DRS and -3 OAA in 673 innings at third, and -5 DRS and -7 OAA in 837 innings at shortstop; only at first base (0 DRS and 0 OAA in 289.2 innings) and in the outfield (8 DRS and 3 OAA in 560.2 innings) has he demonstrated some semblance of skill, and those positions alone hardly recommend somebody for a utility role.
Because of his age (he’ll turn 28 in February) and former top prospect status, Profar will certainly receive attention from teams hoping to cash in on him finally breaking out. Although the Yankees could definitely use some additional quality depth, don’t expect them to make a serious run at him, as he will likely be able to receive a starting job for a non-contender and aim to improve his value on a one-year deal.