With last Friday’s return of catcher Salvador Perez (and yesterday’s DFA of Humberto Quintero), starter Felipe Paulino out for the year with an elbow injury, the All-Star caliber play of Mike Moustakas and the struggles of the starting rotation, it’s easy to overlook shortstop Alcides Escobar. But Escobar is quietly becoming one of the Kansas City Royals top players.
Escobar is not a product of the Royals farm system, but he is an example of getting a good player in a trade. As part of Zack Greinke trade in 2010, Escobar has brought the most value. Pitcher Jake Odorizzi is in AAA Omaha (but could be up soon), outfielder Lorenzo Cain‘s 2012 season has been fraught with injuries and reliever Jeremy Jeffress is still stuck in Omaha.
When the Royals signed Escobar to a long-term deal during spring training, many fans liked it. But the signing didn’t get the attention like Perez’s or Alex Gordon‘s long-term deals. It was almost like, “oh, we got Escobar for a reasonable long-term deal. That’s nice.”
And the signing of Escobar has been nice. Escobar leads the team with 82 hits and a .315 batting average. He’s not a power hitter, but Escobar is second on the team with 19 doubles and third on the team with a .353 on base percentage. He also has 12 stolen bases, which is one behind team leading Jarrod Dyson. And unlike fellow infielders Chris Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt, Escobar doesn’t get hurt and has played 71 of 73 games at shortstop, a demanding position.
Now Escobar isn’t the perfect shortstop. In 260 at bats, He’s struck out 43 times and only has nine walks. He’s grounded into eight double plays and committed eight errors. He has a .975 fielding percentage, which is just below the league average .978. His RF/9 is at 4.41, just below the 4.51 league RF/9 average. But Escobar does play good defense, gets hits, gets on base and steals bases.
While Moustakas gets most of the attention in All-Star voting, Escobar is fifth in voting among American League shortstops, behind players such as Derek Jeter, Elvis Andrus, J.J. Hardy and Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s likely the Royals will have only one representative in the All-Star Game and it will probably be Mike Moustakas. But if there’s a second Royals All-Star player, Escobar would be a strong candidate.
It’s easy to take a player like Escobar for granted. He doesn’t get the attention or the press coverage of players like Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Jeff Franceour. All Escobar does is show up to play every day, stays healthy, doesn’t make boneheaded mistakes and plays his position well. If all the Royals players were like Alcides Escobar, the team would be in a lot better shape than they are now.