Jurickson Profar Has Great Value To Padres’ Roster In Future (www.mlb.com)

SAN DIEGO — Jurickson Profar is 27 and coming off the best season of his career. It was a short and unique season, sure, as the usual 2020 caveats apply. But Profar was an integral piece on the Padres’ playoff-caliber offense. Based on his performance, he almost certainly earned himself

SAN DIEGO — Jurickson Profar is 27 and coming off the best season of his career. It was a short and unique season, sure, as the usual 2020 caveats apply. But Profar was an integral piece on the Padres’ playoff-caliber offense. Based on his performance, he almost certainly earned himself a starting role on a big league club for ’21.

If he’d wanted one. Instead, Profar is back in San Diego, where the Padres return starters at all eight defensive positions and have already added versatile infielder Ha-Seong Kim via free agency this winter. Profar is a starting-caliber player ticketed for the Padres’ bench.

“I don’t think it matters anymore,” Profar said Wednesday after

, which includes player options after the 2021 and ’22 seasons. “I’m ready to help the team win a World Series.”

On the surface, it’s a curious fit. But dig a little deeper, and Profar might be exactly what the championship-chasing Padres needed. Here’s why:

He brings extreme versatility
Here’s a fun exercise: Let’s build the ideal bench player.

First, he can’t play one position. He should play several. Bonus points if he can move between the infield and outfield.

Second, he’s proven himself as a capable pinch-hitter. Let’s make him a switch-hitter, too, because that brings favorable pinch-hitting matchups against pitchers from both sides.

Third, he needs a solid glove — and at least one or two positions where he’s above average defensively, to allow for the possibility that he could be used as a defensive replacement.

Check. Check. And check.

Lastly — and perhaps most importantly — he needs to fully embrace that role, despite not playing every day. He’d probably say something like this:

“That’s my identity — just playing, having fun every day, every night,” Profar said. “Anywhere I can play, I’ll be ready.”

Indeed, Profar fits the bill on all four fronts. He can play four infield positions and three outfield spots. He’s a switch-hitter who has thrived coming off the bench. He’s above average in the corner outfield.

Sure, Profar would be a starter on a lesser team. But the best way to extract full value from Profar might be to use him exactly the way the Padres plan to.

There’s playing time for him in the outfield
It’s useful that Profar can play seven defensive positions. But in reality, you don’t want him at shortstop, third base or center field. Those are emergency options.

Based on San Diego’s current roster construction, the bulk of Profar’s playing time should come in the corner outfield. Yes, the Padres expect a fully healthy Tommy Pham for Spring Training. Yes, Wil Myers is coming off the best season of his career.

But Myers and Pham have dealt with injury trouble in the past. Plus, in a transition back from a shortened 60-game season, it’s worth giving both downtime, particularly against tough right-handers.

It’s also worth wondering about Pham’s defensive capabilities. The Padres used Profar as a defensive replacement in left field late last season, and it’s possible they do so again in 2021. If a universal designated hitter arrives, it’s easy to see Pham sliding into that role, with Profar in left.

In the event of an injury, it’s still possible Profar takes over a regular infield spot. But if all goes according to plan, Profar might start 50-60 games, pinch-hit in another 50-60 and bring late-game defensive value in 40 or so.

That’s not technically an everyday player. But he’d be making an everyday impact.

It’s an off-field fit, too
When the Padres beat the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card Series, they trotted to the right-field corner to salute the fans who’d been cheering from nearby rooftops and balconies. Two players carried a brown-and-gold flag with the number “10” emblazoned upon it. (For the Padres’ 10th man.)

One was Fernando Tatis Jr. The other was Profar.

Profar clearly loves it in San Diego. His teammates rave about him, and he raves right back.

“Since the season ended, I wanted to sign with the Padres,” Profar said. “My teammates wanted me here, and here I am.”

Profar added that he’s looking forward to his reunion with Yu Darvish (his former Rangers teammate) so he can brush up on his Japanese. He’s particularly close with Tatis, a relationship the Padres are happy to foster. As a former top prospect himself, Profar understands the pressure that comes with lofty expectations better than anyone.

Profar never quite lived up to those expectations. But he’s proving himself as a useful and valuable player — a worthwhile investment for a Padres team with eyes on winning a World Series title.

“Last year, we made the first step,” Profar said. “This year, we got even better.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.



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