Round Rock shortstop Jurickson Profar, the top-rated prospect in the minor leagues, was once viewed as a cornerstone player for the Texas Rangers.
But with the Rangers having signed middle infielders Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler to long-term deals, there's speculation Profar might be a key part of a trade to acquire an All-Star caliber pitcher or outfielder.
Regardless of which major league franchise Profar begins his career with, the 20-year-old rising star showed Tuesday night in the opening game of a four-game series against the RedHawks what all the hype is about.
Profar was a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
“He basically just needs to get some experience under his belt,” said Round Rock manager Bobby Jones. “He's an aggressive switch hitter who already has played a little in the big leagues.
“It's a learning process. At the Triple-A level he'll see some off-speed stuff in fastball counts. He needs to learn how to make adjustments. We'll see how he fares. But down the road he should be a very fine player.”
Very fine player? Typical Jones, who managed the RedHawks for years before team president Nolan Ryan moved the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate to the Austin area.
A career .277 hitter, Profar's batting average doesn't tell the entire story. He has drawn nearly as many walks (167) as strikeouts (198) to compile a .370 on-base percentage.
Profar probably doesn't have as high a ceiling as other young stars such as Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Still, slick fielding shortstops that can get on base, hit for power and steal bases are potential All-Stars.
At one point the Rangers considered moving Profar to second base, knowing they might re-sign Andrus. There was talk Kinsler might move to first base or the outfield to make room for Profar.
But early this season, Kinsler remains at second base with Texas and Profar remains at shortstop at the Triple-A level; he will occasionally play second.
“The kid just loves to play,” Jones said. “He knows all that stuff they're talking about and knows there's nothing he can do about it. He's a great kid to be around. He just goes out and plays his game and has fun.”
Round Rock third baseman Mike Olt, another elite minor league prospect, joined the Rangers organization at age 21 after a standout college career at Connecticut. Profar was 17 when he and Olt broke in together with Spokane in short season Class A three years ago.
“I was shocked how well he understood the game at such a young age,” Olt said. “The past couple of years he's developed even more. He's only going to get better. He likes to compete. He's a winner, a kid with a lot of talent.”
A native of Curacao, an island near the coast of Venezuela, Profar led his team to the Little League World Series title in 2004 at age 11 and then led them to a runner-up finish the following year.
In 2009, Profar signed a $1.55 million deal with the Rangers, an organizational record bonus for an international player before they later signed Yu Darvish.
Profar immediately showed why he's been a highly touted prospect since the day he signed.
At age 18, Profar was named MVP of the low-Class A South Atlantic League.
Last season at age 19, he skipped high Class A and hit .281 with 14 home runs in Double-A, highlighted by a 29-game hitting streak. He also logged 17 at bats with the Rangers.
What are Profar's thoughts on being the No. 1 prospect in the minors?
“It's a big honor,” Profar said. “But I don't worry about any of that stuff (including trade rumors). I'm just working on everything, my hitting, defense, everything.”
The looming question is whether Profar will be part of the Rangers core in future years.
Last year, the Rangers signed Kinsler to a five-year $75 million extension. A few weeks ago, they signed Andrus to an eight-year $120 million extension.
The Rangers could find a spot in their lineup if they convince Kinsler to change positions. First baseman Mitch Moreland still has a lot to prove. Outfielders Nelson Cruz and David Murphy can become free agents after this season.
But the latest buzz is the Rangers could dangle Profar in an attempt to land ultra-talented Miami outfielder Giancario Stanton or a Cy Young-caliber pitcher like Tampa Bay left-hander David Price, who might be on the market later this year.
Amid all the rumors, Olt has been impressed with Profar's maturity.
“You would never know he has all those eyes on him and all that hype,” Olt said. “He really understands the game at a young age. And he keeps getting better. He's a very special player.”