OAKLAND -- When the A's acquired Jurickson Profar from the Texas Rangers this past offseason, they were hoping he would step in to replace the production of Jed Lowrie from last year. Unfortunately, he hasn't come anywhere near doing that.
Profar, 26, has struggled all season, both with his bat and his glove. Offensively, he is slashing a meager .205/.268/.382. Defensively, he has committed 12 errors, tied for the most among major-league second basemen.
Partly due to Profar's struggles, the A's gave former top prospect Franklin Barreto a chance to earn the starting second baseman job last month, but the 23-year-old found even less success than Profar at the plate. Barreto hit just .106/.125/.255 with 18 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances, ultimately getting sent back down to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Now with just a month and a half remaining in the regular season, the job appears to belong to unheralded 30-year-old Corban Joseph. Oakland selected Joseph's contract from Triple-A on Wednesday and he has started four straight games at second base.
"We're just trying to do the best we can with the position with a guy who's swinging a hot bat and has been the entire year," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Joseph. "When you have that kind of year and we're maybe not getting as much production as we want out of that position, you look somewhere else."
Melvin confirmed that Joseph, a left-handed hitter, will get the majority of playing time at second base, particularly against right-handed pitchers. That means Profar has once again been relegated to a backup role.
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that the A's will bring Profar back next season. He is earning $3.6 million this season and figures to get a similar salary in arbitration next year. Oakland could try to trade him this offseason or simply non-tender him.
The A's do have some talented young prospects waiting in the wings, in addition to Joseph. Barreto remains a possibility, though his value has certainly dropped a bit over the past few years. Another option is Jorge Mateo, whom the A's acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray trade.
Mateo, 24, is having a productive year in Triple-A, slashing .297/.336/.524 with 17 home runs, 14 triples, 26 doubles, and 22 stolen bases. His elite speed makes him a highly-regarded prospect, ranked fourth in the A's system by MLB Pipeline.
Sheldon Neuse could potentially be another candidate beginning next season. The 24-year-old is primarily a corner infielder, but he has played seven games at second base this year for Triple-A Las Vegas and nine games at shortstop.
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Neuse is slashing an impressive .320/.389/.546 with 23 home runs and 92 RBI. He is ranked as Oakland's eighth-best prospect.
In the meantime, Joseph has a golden opportunity to take control of the starting second baseman job for the remainder of the season. And who knows, if he performs well down the stretch, he could earn the role for next year too.