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Quick Look: Jurickson’s Profound Improvement

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Oakland’s second baseman resembles a familiar player

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Right off the bat, take a look at Player A vs. Player B:

Player A vs. Player B

BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+
BB% K% AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+
9.1 % 14.8 % 0.254 0.335 0.458 0.204 108
8.1 % 11.3 % 0.25 0.323 0.446 0.196 105
Fangraphs.com

You may have guessed who these two players are. Player A is 2018’s Jurickson Profar and Player B is May, 2019’s Jurickson Profar. They appear to be about the same. One of the Oakland A’s better players has finally returned to the team after going, somewhere.

Acquired for relatively little, at the time (Don’t look at Emilio Pagan’s stats), Profar was considered to be a very solid addition. An infielder who was once a top prospect as a teenager, who possessed every tool imaginable and had finally gotten healthy and broken out. With two years of team control Profar, it was assumed, would easily fill the gap left behind by Jed Lowrie. However things looked bad for Profar, and quickly.

Now a month and a half into the season we’re starting to see on the field what Oakland saw when they made the trade. Perhaps Profar’s poor start to 2019 was simply the result of bad luck (.197 BABIP). Something else may be at play here.

Hitting Harder, Hitting Higher

Early on Profar was hitting the ball at a below-average exit velocity, but in May he’s hit the ball much harder, even harder than last season (87.3 MPH, 91.7 on FB/LD).

Profar’s Statcast Data

Timeframe Exit Velcity FB/LD Exit Velocity
Timeframe Exit Velcity FB/LD Exit Velocity
March/April 2019 85.4 92
May 2019 89.3 92.8
BaseballSavant.com

You notice that there isn’t a noticeable change in exit velocity on balls hit in the air, but Profar has merely been hitting the ball in the air more often.

Profar’s Batted-Ball Distribution

Timeframe GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
Timeframe GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
March/April 2019 1.26 20.5 % 44.3 % 35.2 %
May 2019 0.8 26.5 % 32.7 % 40.8 %
Fangraphs.com

Recently both Profar’s actual results and his expected results have improved. In March and April his wOBA sat at just .220 while his xwOBA was .286. In May however his wOBA and xwOBA were .328 and .359, respectively.

Conclusion

When broken down by month small samples become even smaller. Profar’s 2019 body of work is still not very good (59 wRC+), but his production in May mirrors that of his entire 2018, so the optimist in me says what was lost has been found.