Over the first month of the season, Jurickson Profar was the Padres’ surprise star. He mashed five home runs in the first 19 games of the campaign. Profar also excelled defensively, picking up six outfield assists. That still ranks him second in baseball, but his recent struggles at the plate have proved problematic for an inconsistent Padres offense.
After putting together an incredible .928 OPS in his first 19 games, he’s dropped to a dismal .567 OPS in the 25 games since. Profar has not homered in this cold streak, which has been a major issue for the Padres offense as a whole. They’ve become dependent on Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, which has made them extremely volatile. It appears that a hot start from Profar was a fortunate fluke, but a closer look reveals that is not the case.
It is important to note that even though Profar has struggled offensively of late, he’s still been incredibly valuable, posting a 1.6 WAR. That makes him the second most valuable Padre, behind only Machado. His OPS+, which is a park-adjusted stat where 100 is average, is 107. His season slash line of .212/.322/.378 is right in line with his career numbers of .235/.320/.384. The reason why he’s becoming more productive is the fact that scoring has dropped dramatically league-wide. While Profar’s career OPS+ is 91, meaning he’s been a below-average hitter, he’s had periods of sustained success. In the shortened 2020 season, he put together a career-best 114 OPS+, and in 2018 he put up a 107 OPS+ across a 146 game campaign. His strong play in those seasons suggests that he can maintain success at the plate across a campaign.
One of the biggest changes in Profar’s play this season has been a dramatic increase in power. After homering just four times in 2021, he’s already gone deep five times in 2022. Baseball Savant’s expected home runs metric says that Profar would be expected to have hit 4.8 home runs based on his batted balls. This means that he’s not been reliant on balls that just barely made it over the wall. Profar hit 20 home runs in both 2018 and 2019, meaning that he’s shown an ability to hit for power in the past.
Profar also is walking in a career-high 13.7% of plate appearances, but he’s increased his walk rate in each of the last three full seasons (excluding 2020). His increased walk rate puts him in the 92% percentile in terms of BB%. He’s also decreased his strikeout rate, which puts him in the 84% in K%.
The only statistic of Profar’s that is below league average is his batting average, where he’s hitting just .212. A major reason for this is the fact that Profar’s BABIP is just .224. BABIP is short for batting average on balls in play, and there’s a large amount of luck involved with BABIP. Profar’s career BABIP is .259, so he’s absolutely underperforming his expectations. Statcast places his expected batting average at .251, which is his highest career number (excluding the shortened 2020 season).
In 2022, Profar has increased his Barrel %, his line-drive rate, and his fly ball rate. The Barrel % increase has also led to Profar’s average exit velocity rebounding from a career-low 84.9 miles per hour in 2021. Line drives have the highest batting average, so Profar’s increase in line drives will increase his batting average over time. Fly balls, while their batting average is relatively low, have the highest rate of turning into home runs. Profar’s increase in fly balls has led to his power surge.
Profar has hit in the third spot in the lineup of late due to the Padres struggles offensively. As Fernando Tatis Jr. returns and other players begin to return to their expected levels of production, Profar will drop down the lineup order. This will ease pressure on him while also leading to him getting better pitches to hit.
Profar’s strong performances in the outfield and at the plate have made him one of the most valuable players for the Padres. He’s got the opportunity to get even better.