Jurickson Profar sat at his locker with a task at hand and a smirk on his face.
As he intently unspooled a roll of yellow bat wrap around some fresh lumber, the A’s second baseman pondered the evolution of his game this season.
It’s been a topsy-turvy couple of months for Profar – not long ago one of the Texas Rangers’ top prospects – in his transition to Oakland. A rough first two months in which Profar hit below .200 and committed eight errors flipped suddenly. Over the past month, Profar is batting .309 with five doubles and eight RBIs while only committing two errors.
Yet, Profar is far from satisfied with this quick evolution.
“I’m still far from where I need to be, but at least I made some adjustments.” Profar said Thursday. “I’m trying to do too much, just trying. Usually when I try, I suck.”
The adjustments Profar made he attributes to a mental shift. He played his entire career for the Rangers organization and said it took a few weeks to adjust to unfamiliar terrain and expectations.
“Coming to a new team, you know, you always want to make a good impression from the beginning,” Profar said. “But it hasn’t been like that for me. I kind of put a lot of pressure on myself instead of enjoying and having fun. I’m doing a lot better now.”
Those early errors rang loud with alarm, especially with Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo raking in Triple-A Las Vegas, looking ripe for the call-up. But third base coach and former infielder Matt Williams and infield neighbor Marcus Semien have been instrumental in helping Profar clamp those dangerous yips. With Matt Olson and Semien flanking him, Profar’s fallen seamlessly into a defensive routine that’s not only kept him near error-free, but also allowed him to make hit-saving plays.
Yet, those defensive fixes aren’t what concerned Profar. He knew he’d be all right.
“I’ve been inconsistent, let me say that. Inconsistent,” Profar said “Usually I am not like that. So I am fighting to try to stay consistent every night. I’m fighting myself every night.”
The switch hitter’s qualms lie mostly in an uneven performance from the left side of the plate – a gaping need on a team severely lacking in left-handed bats, save for a powerful Matt Olson.
Against right-handed pitchers, Profar is batting a dismal .176 with a .576 OPS. A .357 with a .900 OPS colors his numbers against left-handers.
“They’ve been pitching me different this year,” Profar said, “and I am very stubborn.”
Profar’s seen more fastballs up and in than usual, he said. And, despite the discrepancy in his splits, Profar attributes his offensive growth to a steady adjustment at the plate. He’s starting to lay off that inside fastball out of the zone. Those mental blockades are falling and he’s starting to settling into his role as a lineup turnover machine.
But there’s still room to grow.
“I feel like I can do a lot more,” Profar said.” I take it step by step. It’s a long season and I’m not really upset because we have a good team and we are winning, so that’s always the No. 1 goal. Winning. But I feel like I have a lot more to give for the team.”
The yellow wrap wasn’t yet fully spiraled around his bat – he was careful to do it right – but, with that, Profar had to run to team stretch prior to the A’s four-game series against the tough Tampa Bay Rays. An important series as this team hopes to separate itself from the .500 mark.
There’s room to fill, but Profar’s slow process is starting to pay off.