After a couple of middling years as a middle infield option in league specific setups, Alcides Escobar went from a relative afterthought to someone who can legitimately be looked at as a potential top-12 option at shortstop in mixed leagues in 2013, or can he? Is that too much praise or could he possibly live up to that hype next season? Before breaking down the effort of Alcides and what that means for the future, let me regale you with what he accomplished in 2012.
Escobar was second at the shortstop position in batting average at .293 (min. 502 plate appearances). Second best folks. Only Derek Jeter was better at .316. Escobar hit .299 against righties and .277 against lefties so he doesn’t need a platoon partner.
Escobar stole 35 bases, the third highest mark at the position and an AL leading mark for shortstops. He was only caught five times.
When you can steal 35 bases and hit nearly .300, and you play shortstop, people take notice. It’s not like the rest of his game was very exciting, he had a mere five homers, had 52 RBIs and 68 runs scored, but that’s still a solid enough of a fantasy line to deserve being looked at closely when trying to add a little bit of speed to your lineup.
Now the concerns…
Though he hit nearly .300, and has the speed to push that mark again, there are a lot of negatives. First, his BABIP was .344 which is .041 points better than his career mark. He posted a 23 percent line drive rate, 2.4 percent above his career rate. Players with speed can post numbers like those two on a fairly regular basis, but Escobar will need to prove he can do that before it can just be accepted.
One thing in his favor is that he knows what his skills are – he beats the ball into the ground and runs (a 53 percent ground ball rate each of the past two years). Of course, the grounders preclude Escobar from doing anything to help in the homer category (he’s hit all of 14 home runs in 505 career games). He will not develop into a power hitter. He will also never likely be a big run producer either… his SLG is .356 for his career and his .390 mark in 2012 was a career best (minus his four at-bat 2008 cup of coffee). By the way, that’s awful (it also doesn’t help that he spent more than half the season hitting out of the #2 hole). Since we are talking about awful, how about that .307 career batting… I mean OBP. That’s right. The guy barely gets on base at a .300 clip for his career, some .020 points lower than a traditional league average type. Escobar did push that number up to .331 in 2012, but again, that’s barely league average. Will that lack of an ability to get on base preclude Escobar from pushing 40 steals in 2013? I’m afraid I’m going to have to say yes. In fact, a sub .330 OBP might even make it tough for him to repeat his 35 steal total from 2012.
So is Escobar a top-12 option at shortstop for 2013? It’s a little to early for a definitive answer, I certainly haven’t crunched all the numbers, but my initial response would be – no. I’m still not convinced that Escobar is a .293 hitter. I’m also not certain that he will be able to repeat his 35 steal total given his relative inability to get on base. That lack of times on base might also limit his ability to score runs. After all, he’s yet to record 70 in a season despite three years of at least 145 games played. Escobar profiles as a solid middle infield option in mixed leagues because of the wheels, but anything beyond that is pushing it.
By Ray Flowers