How Pro-Far Can He Go? Whether Jurickson Profar’s Start is Sustainable

Pro-far so good for Jurickson in San Diego. Can he keep it up?

This past offseason the Padres traded away Juan Soto, the best hitter on their 2023 roster and one of the best hitters in all of baseball baseball. To replace him in left field, they decided to sign Jurickson Profar, arguably the least valuable player in MLB during the 2023 season, to a one-year, $1 million deal. On paper, that sounds like a horrific exchange. Usually, when you trade in a brand new Ferrari for a Ford that’s all beat up and whose previous owner was not good about scheduling oil changes, the driving doesn’t go quite as smooth and the acceleration just doesn’t feel the same. But Profar, the old Ford to Soto’s Ferrari, has shockingly taken over Soto’s mantle of best hitter on the Padres thus far this year. Perhaps even more surprisingly, by wRC+ Profar has even been slightly better with the bat than the Yankees’ phenom, holding a narrow 176 to 171 advantage in the catch-all offensive metric.

I wrote about the Padres’ outfield situation before the season started, and I was not particularly ecstatic about the team’s addition of Profar as their primary option to replace Soto in left. His 2023, where he was worth -1.7 fWAR and -1.3 bWAR, was just so bad it felt hard to see a path to him being even an average regular. If anything can convey how much of a train wreck 2023 was for Profar, he was released by a Colorado Rockies team that lost 103 games and had the worst team wRC+ (78) in all of MLB. If even the Rockies couldn’t find a spot for Profar in their lineup, it seemed like he was pretty much toast as a contributor on a winning squad.

Padres GM A.J. Preller has long had a strange affinity for Profar, beginning with their time together with the Rangers when Profar was ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball. While Profar never lived up to his prospect hype, Preller has acquired him time and time again as the top decision-maker in San Diego. Seeing Profar back in the brown and gold had the same visceral feeling as seeing two people you could have sworn broke up months ago only for it to turn out they were just “taking a break.” For whatever reason, they just can’t quit each other. I felt like Preller was letting his fondness for Profar cloud his vision of the player he currently was, a player who, as previously mentioned, the Rockies could no longer fit on their roster. I was not alone in my skepticism.

Well, thus far Preller looks more than vindicated for the signing. Profar has hit a robust .335/.442/.522, good for a 176 wRC+ in pitcher-friendly San Diego, and has the highest BB% (13.1%) and second lowest K% (14.1%) of any season of his career with a minimum 150 PAs. Profar has been a decent player as recently as 2022, but even in his best years he’s been nothing like the 2024 additionhis previous season high in wRC+ is just 113, and that was in the weird, pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Chalk this up to another case of an MLB President of Baseball Operations being smarter than me.

In our discussion of transactions, we often fail to take into account the changes a player might make in the future. This makes sense because wildly speculating about what could happen like it’s a concrete thing is often bad analysis; if a player has never demonstrated a skill before, it’s hard to say with any confidence that there is a pathway to them demonstrating it in the future. That being said, in this current era player development staffs are constantly hard at work helping players make changes that unlock something new in them, changes that will alter our perceptions of what they are capable of between the lines. Past performance is still the best indicator of future performance, but it has blind spots. What I failed to account for was that 2024 Jurickson Profar is not the same player as 2023 Jurickson Profar, and those changes put him in my analytical blind spots.

One thing that Profar had going for him even during his miserable 2023 was that he was able to make a solid amount of contact. By our Con% at Pitcher List, Profar made contact a very respectable 79.9% of the time, and that number has even improved slightly to 80.9% this season, which would rank in the 80th percentile. Making contact has never been an issue for Profar, as it’s the one plus skill he has consistently demonstrated throughout his career. That contact ability has just never been a difference-making tool because he’s never hit the ball very authoritatively; the highest hard hit rate of his career according to Baseball Savant was 34.3% in 2022, which would have merely placed him in the 19th percentile for that season. When you hit the ball softly, it becomes a lot easier for defenses to turn balls in play into outs, neutralizing the possible benefits of those bat-to-ball skills.

However, Profar’s batted ball data in 2024 looks different than previous seasons of his career. Most notably, Profar is simply hitting the ball harder. His hard hit rate is up to 40.3%, easily the best of his career and all the way up to the 48th percentile of all batters. While that’s not up there with the hardest-swinging mashers in the league, it’s been enough to juice up Profar’s success on batted balls significantly. It’s not just hitting the ball harder that’s driving this change, but that he is making a more ideal type of contact than he did last season, largely by trading out fly balls for line drives.

These are pretty significant shifts in line drive and fly ball percentage. While often time we talk about encouraging hitters to try to add more loft to their swing and increase the number of fly balls they hit in an effort to improve their power numbers, line drives are typically an even better form of contact. Here’s how batters have performed on ground balls, line drives, and fly balls thus far this season according to FanGraphs to give a sense of how these three types of contact differ.

MLB Performance on Different Types of Contact (2024 Season)

Batted Ball Type AVG wOBA SLG ISO BABIP wRC+
Ground Balls .241 .224 .265 .023 .241 42
Line Drives .696 .690 .892 .196 .689 360
Fly Balls .207 .334 .606 .399 .108 117

Trading out softer fly ball contact for harder line drive contact in it of itself makes a big difference in the damage Profar can do on contact. His Statcast metrics back up these improvements in contact quality too. Most notably, his average launch angle has declined from 14.8% to 11.8%, indicating a concerted effort to decrease the loft on his swing and hit the ball on a more level plane. By our Ideal Contact Rate (ICR) at PitcherList, his 41.8% mark is easily a career-high, buoyed by a large increase in his Barrel Rate from 2.7% in 2023 to 5.7% this year. This jives with the increase in liners we’ve seen from Profarhe’s making a more concerted effort to drive the ball and clearly, it’s paying dividends.

Examining Profar’s swing mechanic from last year compared to this year, there are some discernible differences. First off, he is beginning his stance at the plate more erect than before, whereas in the past he had a slight hunch in his setup. With this new stance, Profar begins to load up as the pitch is released, whereas before he was effectively pre-loaded in the way he was set. Going along with his new load-up, Profar has also traded out a toe tap for a more demonstrative, though not enormous, leg kick. He’s beginning plate appearances with his front foot further away from the plate, and as he loads with his hands he’s also using his kick to bring more forward momentum into the ball. Visually there’s a clear difference (look at his front foot in each frame).



This new swing has not only helped Profar generate more force behind his cuts but has also improved his timing so that he’s coming out less in front of the ball, allowing him to get the barrel of the bat onto the ball and get a full-throttled follow through on his swing. That improved rhythm has made Profar look much more at ease at the plate. His bat path has also remained flatter, whereas last year he had a noticeable uppercut even on his line drive swings. Here are some 2023 Profar swings at full speed.

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And now here’s a look at the 2024 version. Pay specific attention to his load, leg kick, and follow-through.


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With all of these improvements to his swing and contact quality, Profar has had considerably more batted-ball success than in seasons past. He is currently running a .373 BABIP, significantly higher than his career .271 mark. Profar’s current batted ball success is likely unsustainable, as a number that high undoubtedly is benefitting from some luck. However, his increase in line drive percentage and improved quality of contact indicate that this BABIP boost isn’t purely a mirage. In fact, our xBABIP for Profar on the season is still .365, indicating that much of his actual BABIP is “deserved.” Though he almost certainly won’t finish the season running a wRC+ in the 170s, this doesn’t feel like a flash in the pan as much as it does some real development.

Because he first debuted in the majors at the ripe age of 19 and was a significant prospect even before then, it feels like Profar has been around forever. In reality, he just turned 31 in February. He’s certainly no spring chicken in baseball years, but it’s not out of the question that Profar could have a few more good seasons in him. Just like with any player, I want to see him sustain this level for a little bit longer before I totally buy in that this is who he is now, but with the adjustments he’s made, we might finally be getting the best of Jurickson Profar. The echoes from last year’s nightmare season are still haunting, but with every hit, they fade further and further into the periphery.

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