Part 12 in a season-long series projecting a hypothetical 25-man roster made up solely of prospects from the Texas Rangers' Minor League system.
Ian Kinsler was a blue-chip shortstop prospect. So was Alfonso Soriano. Michael Young was originally a shortstop in the Blue Jays system, and initially a shortstop once Texas acquired him and assigned him to Double-A.
The last Rangers starter at second base who was developed professionally as a true second baseman? Luis Alicea, who started for Texas in 2000.
There's little question that Luis Sardinas is a shortstop. But he's in an organization with Jurickson Profar, and just as Cesar Izturis and then Alex Rodriguez made Young a second baseman, just as Young made Kinsler a second baseman, and just as Hank Blalock made Mark Teixeira a first baseman, if both Profar and Sardinas get to Texas, they won't both be shortstops, and at the moment the likelihood is probably that Profar has the edge at the position, certainly in terms of timetable.
Things change -- and there's a pretty good shortstop already in Texas who could be there long after Profar and Sardinas are ready for the big leagues -- but if Profar is the best bet out of this system to play shortstop for a contender, you might have to find another spot for Sardinas, who is a legitimate middle-infield prospect in his own right even if he hasn't progressed as rapidly as Profar has or gained the same degree of media traction.
Jamey Newberg's hypothetical 25-man roster made up of Rangers prospects
The two switch-hitters signed on the same day (July 2, 2009) and for roughly the same money (reportedly in the $1.5 million range), Profar out of Curacao and Sardinas out of Venezuela. Profar had the flashier background (dating back to his Little League World Series heroics on the mound and at the plate) and was given the greater challenge out of the gate, assigned to short-season Class A Spokane in 2010 while Sardinas debuted in the rookie-level Arizona League.
But Sardinas had an outstanding debut season, even if it was somewhat overshadowed by Profar's showing at a higher level. Sardinas reached base safely in 15 of his first 16 pro games and ended up hitting .311/.363/.350 as one of the Arizona League's youngest players. He dislocated his shoulder at Fall Instructs after the season, however, which delayed the start of his 2011 campaign until late June, when he rejoined the Arizona League squad that he'd starred for the previous summer. Texas isn't concerned about the lost time, however.
"Luis might be the most natural baseball player in the organization," says Rangers director of international scouting Mike Daly, who was integrally involved in the signing of both Sardinas and Profar. "He plays the game so easy and instinctively."
What he isn't doing quite yet this year, as the organization eases him back into action, is playing every day. So far he's been roughly on a one-day-on, one-day-off schedule, though he has played defensively in each case, and every time at shortstop.
There are differences in Sardinas' and Profar's games. Sardinas is considered the better runner and perhaps more athletic of the two, while Profar gets higher marks for his game awareness, plate discipline, and slug potential. But the Rangers believe there is potential for Sardinas's power to develop.
"Luis has more of a contact approach than Jurickson," says Rangers director of professional scouting Josh Boyd, "though his right-handed power at Instructs was impressive -- and maybe a little surprising." Daly adds that Sardinas has an advanced ability to keep the bat in the zone and can drive the ball when the situation or count calls for it.
Daly and Boyd believe both are legitimate defenders at shortstop with good hands and arm strength. Where Sardinas may be less polished, he may also have more raw talent than Profar, who is beginning to show up on most lists of the top shortstop prospects in the game.
Kinsler was a shortstop in the Minor Leagues until a year before his arrival in Arlington. Soriano was primarily a shortstop developmentally until moving into the Yankees' starting lineup. Young has made a career out of being moved to new positions to fit team needs.
Chances are that Sardinas will play shortstop all the way up the chain, probably a level or two behind Profar as the two progress toward the big leagues. By the time Sardinas is on the doorstep, maybe Profar won't be around. Maybe Elvis Andrus won't be. For now, they're all shortstops, and the Rangers will sort things out when they need to.
Daly is in no rush to figure out whether the 18-year-old Sardinas will need to change positions -- not because of any inability to handle shortstop, but because of team needs. "In the Major Leagues, when you want to get players on the field, you find different spots. Things have a way of working out."
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.