When Jurickson Profar first stepped up to the plate in the Major Leagues, his goal was as simple as it gets.
"I was just trying to hit a ball," he said.
The result was not so simple. The switch-hitting shortstop sent an inside fastball from Indians right-hander Zach McAllister into the right-field seats at Progressive Field for a home run in his Rangers debut.
Profar didn't waver from that original objective when he made his Triple-A debut with Round Rock. The outcome was a little different, however.
On Thursday night, the Rangers' top prospect laced a 1-1 pitch back up the middle, past left-hander Will Smith, for a single and his first Pacific Coast League hit. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and a run scored in the Express' 3-1 Opening Day victory over the Omaha Storm Chasers at The Dell Diamond.
But it wasn't just the single that helped Profar get his Triple-A career off to a nice start. It was more about the pitch.
"When I knew I was coming to Triple-A, I was trying to watch some of the pitchers, just to see what they do," said the 20-year-old, who was batting from the right side in his opening at-bat. "And from that, what I was expecting was a lot of off-speed pitches."
Smith's 1-1 offering? A changeup, of course.
The ability to adapt comes as no surprise to those who've followed the player many consider to be baseball's next big thing. He put together a .281/.368/.452 line with 26 doubles, seven triples and 14 homers at the age 19 for Double-A Frisco last season. The combination of youth and production at the plate, along with an advanced glove at shortstop, vaulted him to the top of MLB.com's prospect rankings. .
"He's a fearless competitor. He gets in the box and truly competes. He is truly blessed with hand-eye coordination," Frisco hitting coach Jason Hart told MiLB.com during the offseason. "All of his tools -- he's so gifted -- but his hands and his baseball IQ are so good for his age. He's one of the smartest players you'll come across at his age.
"He can hit the best fastballs in the league and he can cover both sides of the plate and put the off-speed pitch into play when he needs to."
Profar wasn't quite settled with his single in the first. After two pickoff attempts by the southpaw Smith, the native of Curacao swiped second for his first Triple-A stolen base. Despite possessing above-average speed, he stole only 16 bags last year. That said, Profar was adamant that he wasn't trying to get the season off to a speedy start.
"All I was trying to do is move over to scoring position and help out our team for whoever was behind me. That's it," he said.
The shortstop didn't come around to score in the first, but he did in the third when he walked and Rangers' No. 2 prospect Mike Olt doubled. Profar added a single -- an inside-out poke the opposite way to right field -- in the fifth inning.
Playing with Olt, who nearly made the Major League club as a first baseman/outfielder, at third base for a second consecutive season should provide some stabiliity for Profar.
"We've played together a lot now and we've had good communication when we play together," Profar said. "I know when balls are hit to my right side and I can't get to them, he'll be there to pick it up for me."
Both players were charged with throwing errors, but Nick Tepesch -- Texas' No. 18 prospect -- was able to limit the damage in the low-scoring affair. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed an unearned run on five hits and struck out five in five innings for his first Triple-A win.
"He was the Nick Tepesch we like seeing," Profar said. "He's a great pitcher, especially when he's just trying to get contact. I love when he pitches because he keeps me busy over there at shortstop."
While Profar, Olt and especially Tepesch, who will make his Major League debut next week, may not be long for their new home in Round Rock, the youngest of the group insisted the trio's to get the first win out of the way.
"We know we have to just keep working," Profar said. "It feels great to win on the first day, but now we're trying to win every day, too."