John Blake, the executive vice president of communications for the Texas Rangers, announced tonight on his personal Twitter feed that shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar will join up with Team Netherlands for the four-team, single-elimination Championship Round of the World Baseball Classic.
Profar stayed back in Rangers camp when the 2013 WBC began because he wanted to focus on winning a spot on the Opening Day roster. It didn’t help that Netherlands has had to play its games in Asia.
But now that there’s a real shot at the title, Profar has decided — with the encouragement of Rangers manager Ron Washington — to head to San Francisco. That’s where the four finalists will face off in a true semifinal. Profar is batting .222 with a .654 OPS in the Cactus League, and the Rangers are probably thinking that a change of scenery might help his psyche.
Widely considered the best prospect in baseball, Profar hit .281/.368/.452 with 14 home runs, 62 RBI and 16 stolen bases over 126 games last year at Double-A. He is also a strong defender at shortstop and could certainly have an impact on the remaining games of this tournament. The 20-year-old is a native of Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela. It’s a constituent country of the Netherlands.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.