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Jurickson Profar’s Throwing Pains

Jurickson Profar finds himself at the top of the second base depth chart for the Oakland A’s, his new team following an offseason trade. That is very good news for Jurickson Profar, since it seems Jurickson Profar is struggling to throw the baseball.

The former top prospect made nine throwing errors in 2018… at two different positions. He made nine throwing errors at shortstop and nine throwing errors at third base. He also made one at second base, for a total of 19 throwing errors on the year. That is seven more than anyone else and the most in one season since the stat was first tracked in 2003.

Profar came up as a middle infielder, playing every game but one there in his minor league career. In 2018, he started at shortstop for the first three months of the season when Elvis Andrus got injured, and he struggled to throw the ball accurately. In mid-May, Levi Weaver of The Athletic was concerned Profar had the yips. In the article, Profar states how he’s struggled to make the transition defensively from Triple-A to the bigs:

“You know, this is the first time that I’ve gotten to play, for a long time, shortstop in the big leagues. Shortstop in the big leagues is not the same as shortstop in the minor leagues. You don’t get big guys like… Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius…”

Profar was getting his first real chance to play shortstop in the majors, recognizing its difference from minor league ball, and thought he was benefiting from his time there. Just as he was getting his reps and starting to figure out the differences, the Rangers decided to move him to third base in July as Adrian Beltre’s hamstring acted up.

Profar started 46 games at third base, and the results weren’t great. He made as many throwing errors as Maikel Franco in half the innings. In an article published by Sportsday, former manager Jeff Bannister attributes Profar’s miscues to his lack of footwork:

“There are times when he gets a little out of rhythm,” Banister said. “That’s when you see those errant throws. … He continues to work on being consistent with the footwork.”

On a bunch of Profar’s errant throws this year, he seems unaware of the amount of time he has to make a play. He gets the ball very quickly out of his glove but the throws have a tendency to be off-line. He appears to be rushing his throws in situations that don’t warrant it. This goes along with his poor footwork. When he’s better able to recognize the amount of time he has to make a play, he can take the time to set his feet and make a proper throw to first base.

All that said, there are two main reasons that there is some hope for young Profar. Exhibit A is Marcus Semien, Profar’s new teammate. In 2015, Semien’s first year with Oakland, he made 18 throwing errors. The next season he made only eight, and his defensive numbers have continued to improve overall. Maybe there’s some coaches in Oakland who will be able to recognize a problem that the Rangers could not. It also doesn’t hurt that Matt Olson is one of the best defensive first basemen in the league. With that in mind, the change of location could really benefit Profar.

The other silver lining, and what you’ve probably been thinking this whole time, is that second base is a much easier throw. Profar played 79 innings at second base this year and made just one throwing error, coming on a play where he slipped, regained his footing, and then made a throw well wide of first. On plays in which he did not slip, Profar had a flawless record at second.

Even if Profar makes eight throwing errors this season at second base, the most made by any second baseman in 2018, that is fewer than half what he made last year. The Athletics currently have one of the best defensive infields in the game, and they are hoping they can help Profar stay on his feet and contribute with his arm.