He turns 19 in about two weeks, but when Jurickson Profar reports to Spring Training later this month, his name will be among the most talked about.
Profar has accomplished more in his brief career -- and life -- than a lot of baseball veterans. His first full season in the Minors saw him bring home an MVP award, a Futures Game nod and several Hitter of the Year trophies, prompting MLB.com to name the shortstop as the Rangers' No. 1 prospect.
Profar, a switch-hitting infielder signed by Texas in 2010 as a free agent from Curacao, aims to become the next big league star from the island. The country, part of the Netherlands, has produced players such as Andruw Jones, Jair Jurrjens, Randall Simon, Kenley Jansen and Shairon Martis. And like Jones, Profar hopes to make his mark in Texas some day soon.
We caught up with the former Little League World Series champion as he prepares to report for Spring Training and his third Minor League season:
MiLB.com: So what have you been up to this winter so far? You're in the Dominican Republic now, but did you spend any time back home in Curacao?
Jurickson Profar: I had my offseason in Curacao, just working on some things, spending time with family, friends.
MiLB.com: What was it like growing up there? Did everyone look up to Andruw Jones?
Profar: A little bit, he was a big name for Curacao when he was with the Braves, so everyone looked up to him.
MiLB.com: How did you get started in baseball, what made you want to play?
Profar: I just liked baseball when I was a kid. My mom brought me and my brother to fields. We started practicing and I always liked it, probably since I was 5.
MiLB.com: Are you friendly with Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles? You guys are from the same town (Willemstad) and played in the Futures Game last summer.
Profar: Yes, he's another guy I played with since I was young. We grew up together playing baseball.
MiLB.com: You played in two Little League World Series, winning it in 2004. What were those experiences like?
Profar: It was the greatest feeling. Being in the U.S., everybody likes baseball and the series. It was a big thing for me to win it.
MiLB.com: Even though you were throwing in the 90s as a 16-year-old, you saw yourself more as a hitter. What made you go that direction? Do you miss taking the mound at all?
Profar: No, I don't miss it at all. I always wanted to be a player. You do a lot of stuff -- hitting, running -- and as a pitcher, you do only one thing, pitching, that's it.
MiLB.com: That said, you've obviously a versatile athlete, a switch-hitter, an infielder and a former pitcher. Would you be open to changing positions, especially with Elvis Andrus holding down short in Texas?
Profar: Yes, I don't mind switching positions, I just want to play baseball. As long as I'm in the lineup, I can play wherever.
MiLB.com: We spoke with the Rangers a few months ago and they told us it's your "energy and intelligence" on the field that sets you apart. Is that an accurate description of your game?
Profar: Yeah, that's true. I always want to be on the field, and as long as I'm there, I'm giving 100 percent. It's something that I love doing.
MiLB.com: You had more walks than strikeouts last season, which has impressed a lot of people, especially considering your age (the youngest player in the South Atlantic League) and experience. How have you worked to became that type of patient hitter?
Profar: That's something that I always wanted to be to help my team. I was the leadoff hitter, and as the leadoff man, you have to be on base. So you just take pitches and look for something you can drive or hit or something. They throw you balls, you take it, you walk or get a hit-by-pitch. As a leadoff man, I just have to take my pitches and see what happens.
MiLB.com: The Rangers said you matured this past season, from clashing with umpires early on to earning a lot of respect as the MVP by the end of summer. What really happened?
Profar: In the beginning I was a little angry with umpires and stuff, strikes and balls and I was getting mad about it during the game. But as the season moved on, I started focusing on other stuff and it felt better.
MiLB.com: You debuted in 2010 with Class A Short-Season Spokane and reached the Northwest League championship there. How much fun was that, your first taste of professional baseball?
Profar: It was a good thing. My first year, playoffs -- that's the kind of team [I've wanted] to be on all my life. I like to play and I like to win, I don't like to lose. I always wanted to win. It was a good team, and we just fell short.
MiLB.com: Last season was obviously huge for you -- South Atlantic League MVP, an All-Star, Baseball America named you the Class A Player of the Year, the Rangers named you their Player of the Year and we also gave you the MiLBY as Class A's best hitter. How incredible was the year for you?
Profar: Yeah, it was a very, very good season. I worked hard for it, and it couldn't have gone any better.
MiLB.com: Another honor you had in 2011 was playing for the World Team in the Futures Game, what was that like to be a part of?
Profar: It was a big experience, playing against the best talent in the game in the Minors, so it was a big game for me. I had a good experience there and it carried through the rest of the season for me. [The second half] went a lot better because of that game.
MiLB.com: How do you envision this next season playing out? You'll start at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach or Double-A Frisco. Where do you see yourself after Spring Training and what are your goals and expectations?
Profar: As a player you want the best, but it depends on Spring Training. Wherever you go, you have to play. [The Rangers] haven't said anything about it yet.
MiLB.com: I know you can speak at least a couple languages, correct?
Profar: I can speak four languages, yes -- Dutch, Spanish, Papiamento and English.
MiLB.com: Did you have a favorite team growing up?
Profar: The Yankees, because they always win. That's the player I want to be, on a team that always wins.
MiLB.com: You may be in luck there, the Rangers have been pretty solid lately. Have you thought about what it'll be like to make it to Texas?
Profar: The Rangers are doing very good, especially the last couple seasons. I'm hoping they keep doing it, someday with me in it.
MiLB.com: Finally, not sure if you followed along, but you were a contestant in last season's Minors Moniker Madness, where fans voted for the best name in the Minors. You lost to Callix Crabbe in the second round, did you hear about the contest?
Profar: My mom told me about that (laughs). But, no, I never followed it.