Sunday, February 13, 2011

Royals Wild Cards for 2011: #3 Alcides Escobar

Stabilizing the defense up the middle has been an alleged priority of Dayton Moore ever since he got here. Since then, we've seen a gauntlet of suck run through the position of shortstop from Tony Pena, Jr., Willie Bloomquist and Yuniesky Betancourt. Even Mike Aviles wasn't that great defensively when he was at shortstop.

The Royals paid the Brewers $2 million dollars to take Yuniesky Betancourt in the Zack Grienke trade, which in my mind was a small miracle. Alcides Escobar came over in the Greinke trade after an incredibly underwhelming .235/.288/.326 for the Brew Crew last season. Not a great start for the one-time 12th ranked prospect in baseball.

The reason that Escobar is a wild card is solely based on the fact that he is a shortstop. We haven't had a respectable shortstop here since Freddie Patek and I'm hoping this all changes with Escobar. Some people say that the Royals didn't get star-caliber players in the Greinke trade. I'm fine with that, considering that we possibly have hall of fame-caliber players in our minor league system right now. Escobar will need to be a role player and he has to stick to the shortstop position, as it is pretty obvious that the front office plans on switching last year's first-round pick Christian Colon to second base.

So, Escobar's "wild cardness" goes much beyond his performance this year. In fact, his performance this year could be a big moment in the Dayton Moore regime. Will Escobar stick at short and move Colon over to his more natural position at second base? I think so. Escobar has been heralded as the "next big thing" when it comes to playing defense at the shortstop position. Word on the street is that Escobar is going to make our eyes pop out of our heads with the plays he's going to make. Hey, that's great, but can he make the throw to first without launching the ball into the dugout suites?

I think Escobar will be much better than Yuni, which isn't saying much, but it is saying something. Escobar has much better plate discipline...once again, not saying much...than the Yunigma. Quite simply, Escobar is a better athlete and better baseball player than Yuni. So take that, Dick Kaegel!

There's a lot riding on Escobar. But it is easy to look at his stats and see the beginnings of perhaps Yuni 2.0. Much like Kila Ka'aihue at first base, Escobar has one year to solidify himself at shortstop, because the Royals can't spend too much time deciding what to do with Colon's defensive position.

Escobar's ceiling is as an above average major league shortstop. No more, no less. And after the past 10 years at that position for this francise, wouldn't you take that?


  1. "Even Mike Aviles wasn't that great defensively when he was at shortstop."

    Weren't the defensive metrics extremely kind to Aviles in 2008?

    I know UZR isn't perfect, but are there any other sources that indicate that Aviles's defense was/is subpar? Was there a consensus among scouts that he lacks the range to be an above average shortstop or was the position switch solely due to his arm injury?

  2. Defensive metrics reward consistent fielders and Aviles was very consistent in 2008. I'm not saying he was terrible, but he certainly wasn't great. He had an above average year defensively in 08.

    As for the reason for the position change, I think the Royals didn't want him there in the long term, which I don't understand. I thought we had our shortstop for the next 5 years with Aviles.

    His age definitely works against his favor. After having TJ surgery, I doubt we ever see him return to short, which sucks.

  3. Why such a strong assertion on the limits of Escobar's upside? Just a year ago he was the 12th best prospect in baseball, and now his upside is above average?