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The Jurickson Profar gamble did not pay off

The tenure of the “Happiest Man in Baseball” has come to its bitter end as the Colorado Rockies decided to release outfielder Jurickson Profar over the weekend following a disappointing season.

It was not the union that either party had hoped for when the Rockies inked Profar to a $7.75MM free agent deal back in March after an injury to Sean Bouchard and the underperformance of rookies in Spring Training forced the Rockies’ hand. They had hoped for an on-base machine that could lead off and provide more power to an anemic lineup while playing a serviceable left field.

Unfortunately, Profar produced a disappointing .236/.316./.364 slash line after 111 games and 472 plate appearances. His 72 wRC+ is higher than just three qualified hitters in 2023 and his -1.9 fWAR is the lowest of any qualified hitter in baseball. Additionally, his -11 DRS highlights his defensive struggles and places him as the fifth-worst in baseball this season.

Early impressions

Things started off optimistic for Profar at the beginning of his time in Colorado. When he first arrived, Profar showcased his ability to get on base. He managed to reach base in 37 consecutive games, delivering on the expectation that he could help the Rockies score more runs from the top of the lineup. In fact, his knack for making contact and getting aboard was an intriguing trait that helped Profar’s case for playing time. In those 111 games played, Profar managed 45 walks to 96 strikeouts, establishing a .316 OBP which is fairly in line with his career average, as was his .305 xWOBA according to FanGraphs.

His efforts in the outfield showed promise as he impressed in his first few games in the outfield, making diving catches in the gap and pursuing balls in the corner. He wasn’t going to be a speed demon in the field, but his reputation was that of an average defender who could cover left field admirably, which was apparent early on. However, much to the dismay of the Rockies, Profar, and fans alike, things continued to degrade rather than upgrade.

Offensive woes

The significant factor for Profar’s release was his offensive struggles during his tenure with the Rockies. While he provided a somewhat reliable on-base percentage, his batting average and power numbers were below expectations. After he belted 15 home runs in 2022 with the San Diego Padres, the Rockies hoped that he could have replicated that mark once again. What they must not have realized is that Profar’s double-digit home run seasons were more an exception than the standard. In his 10 seasons in MLB, Profar has just three seasons in which he has hit 10 or more home runs. This absence was most evident by hitting just eight home runs with the Rockies, which his longest streak going 34 games without a home run.

The oddity of Profar’s season is that he was performing to his career average in almost every category. The problem was that it wasn’t contributing much of anything to the Rockies lineup. This is best exemplified by his struggles in critical situations. Profar batted just .161/.284/.284 with runners in scoring position and while he did manage 28 RBIs with 15 walks to 16 strikeouts, he struggled in any situation that had men on base with any number of outs.

His switch-hitting also wasn’t much of a positive factor. As a left-handed batter, Profar batted .215/.297/.328, which is understandable since he bats from that side more, but the contrast to his right-handed batting where he batted over .280 with an OPS of .813, showed that the primary form of the hitter was more of a burden than an actual asset.

At the end of the day offensively, Profar was the same as he has always been, but its glaring effect was magnified tenfold when placed within the confines of the Rockies’ struggling offense in 2023. If the team had been able to hit better over the course of the season, Profar could have continued to skirt by, his contract and performance made it difficult to carry his bat any further.

Implications of the move

Profar is now a free agent, and his release from the Rockies opens up new opportunities for the team. By shedding his contract, the Rockies were able to call up Hunter Goodman, a power-hitting prospect who has had an incredible season in the minors. Goodman’s presence was immediately felt as he notched a hit and RBI against the Baltimore Orioles, while also scoring the winning run and making a game-winning catch. It also allows players like Nolan Jones and Michael Toglia opportunities to continue to get regular playing time along with Elehuris Montero down the stretch.

It’s also a signal that the Rockies are embracing where they are at this point in the season. The team is hurtling towards its first 100-loss season and continually giving an underperforming veteran like Profar at-bats does nothing for either party. The Rockies had to bite the bullet on what money was left for his contract but that’s a small price to pay to get a leg up on testing prospects for the 2024 season. The rookies are the future and they are finally getting their chance to prove their worth at the big league level.

As for Profar, he now has the chance to join another team for a playoff push should someone require his services. There were high hopes across the board for Profar’s tenure in Colorado. He bet on himself and the Rockies took the bait out of desperation, but the gamble didn’t pay off for either party and they both lost. Yet, out of the failure comes an opportunity for growth moving forward.

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