Tag Archive | "Shortstops"

MLB Trade Rumors Center Around St. Louis Cardinals Shortstop Pete Kozma

Trade rumors begin to swirl as spring training nears completion in Major League Baseball.  As Opening Day draws near, teams begin to identify their needs as well as their surpluses.  The St. Louis Cardinals, who have found themselves actively involved in the market for shortstops around the league over the last few seasons, suddenly find themselves with a player to offer to the market.

PeteKozma2

Pete Kozma is the odd man out in St. Louis, and general manager John Mozeliak hopes to benefit from that.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN, the Cardinals have been shopping Kozma around the league, letting other teams know that the young shortstop is available:

The reasons for trade rumors surrounding Kozma are obvious.  The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta during the offseason, Daniel Descalso offers a backup option who can play multiple positions and the team needs the room on the 40-man roster.

All of this could lead to a trade for a low-level prospect in exchange for the man who played 143 games for the Cardinals last season.

Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out another need that the Cardinals may wish to address with the rumored trade of Kozma based on the recent reassignment of relief pitcher Tyler Lyons.

“The Cardinals can option Kozma or keep him as Peralta’s backup. Having optioned Tyler Lyons to Memphis on Wednesday, the club could survey the market for long relief. No obvious internal candidate currently exists,” according to Strauss.

That option would not alleviate the roster restriction that exists but is a fair trade rumor as it fulfills both the team’s need and surplus at the same time.  The argument against a long reliever in return is based more on the value that Kozma holds.

Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos breaks down the value of Kozma on the market and what fans should expect in return.  Ultimately, Humphrey comes to the conclusion that a trade involving Kozmawould likely resemble the trade of Brendan Ryan in December of 2010.  In that trade, the Cardinals received relief pitcher Maikel Cleto, a low-level prospect with a lively arm.

The Cardinals will do their due diligence in shopping Kozma around to see if there is a trade that makes sense.  If the past can tell us anything, it is that Mozeliak will only move Kozma if he feels that the Cardinals will clearly benefit from the return.

Meanwhile, the trade rumors will continue to circulate.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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St. Louis Cardinals have needs at two of baseball’s most talent-thin positions

The St. Louis Cardinals entered the offseason with a shopping list that includes a shortstop and a left-handed relief pitcher. Unfortunately, those are currently two of the most talent-thin positions in Major League Baseball.

The Cardinals’ regular shortstop for the 2012 season, Rafael Furcal, hit .264 and had an on-base percentage of .325 in 121 games before he tore an elbow ligament that ended his season. Those certainly aren’t terrific numbers, but he ranked 11th in baseball in batting average and eighth in on-base percentage. He also played his typically solid defense throughout the season.

Furcal expects to be healthy by Opening Day, so the Cardinals will have to either be satisfied with his production, take a chance that late-season star Pete Kozma will continue his remarkable play or try and find an upgrade elsewhere.

Various rumors say the Cardinals are interested in Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who ranked eighth in batting average and fifth in on-base percentage last season. That could be an option, but the Cardinals would likely have to part with at least two young pitchers and a position player.

That’s a high price to pay when the team already has serviceable players on its roster, especially when the list of above-average shortstops who might be available is likely limited to Cabrera and Texas Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus.

The biggest problem is simply a shortage of very good shortstops. Cabrera and Andrus have spots in most top-five lists of shortstops, along with Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitski and Jose Reyes. Starlin Castro would also receive consideration.

The next tier might include a veteran player such as Jimmy Rollins or a young player such as Alcides Escobar who has played well for a year or two, but has yet to establish themselves as a consistent all-star caliber player.

The lack of supply at the shortstop position also means demand is high, which could cost the Cardinals dearly in terms of young players and prospects if they make a move for a shortstop this offseason.

Pitching, particularly hard-throwing, young pitching, is currently a position of strength for the Cardinals, except for left-handed relievers.

Although there aren’t many high-quality shortstops currently roaming infields at big-league stadiums, there might be fewer left-handed relievers.

The Cardinals have lefty Marc Rzepczynski in their bullpen, but he had a 4.24 ERA last season and certainly can’t carry the load alone, as the Cardinals found out in the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants when Rzepczynski posted a 6. 75 ERA and the Giants faced right-handers when Rzepczynski wasn’t available.

But, the same problem faces the Cardinals for left-handed relievers as it does for shortstops. There aren’t many available, especially at a relatively moderate price.

Left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt recently signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Giants, and the best options in free agency are pitchers such as Brian Fuentes, Will Ohman and Wesley Wright.

Those aren’t exactly household names. While that isn’t a requirement for the position, the Cardinals would be foolish to think they would be much better off heading into the 2013 season with one of those pitchers as their second left-handed option in the bullpen.

Rumors also link the Cardinals to non-tendered pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, who threw well for the Washington Nationals last year, posting a 2.88 ERA in 46 innings. Gorzelanny could be a better option, but he is sure to draw interest from several teams and command a fairly high price given the weak market at the position.

Fans can yearn for the Cardinals to make moves to address both positions, but there just isn’t much talent in stock at either spot.

Thankfully, a better shortstop or left-handed reliever isn’t going to determine whether or not the Cardinals will be good next season. The Cardinals have enough talent to be a good team, but those spots could be important factors when the team has to beat other playoff-caliber teams late in the season or the playoffs.

But given the current market at those spots, many other teams could be in similar positions.

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Escobar Named Joe Burke Award Winner

Kansas City, MO (November 5, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals have announced that shortstop Alcides Escobar was selected as the 2012 Joe Burke Special Achievement Award winner.  The award was voted on by the Kansas City Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).  The Joe Burke is awarded to an unsung player who contributed above and beyond what was expected, or someone who the writers felt deserved some recognition for an outstanding season.

Escobar had a breakout offensive season in 2012, his second with Kansas City after being acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers on December 19, 2010.  The 25-year old set career highs with a .293 average, 177 hits, 30 doubles, five home runs, 52 RBI, and 35 stolen bases.  The 177 hits were 13 more than the previous single-season mark for a Royals shortstop.  His .293 average ranked second to New York’s Derek Jeter among MLB shortstops and was the third-highest single-season mark at the position by a Royal.  Escobar’s 35 stolen bases ranked fifth in the American League and were the most by a Royals player since 2003.  He became the first infielder in franchise history to post at least 30 doubles and 30 steals in the same season and the first Royal to accomplish the feat since Carlos Beltran in 2002.  Escobar’s first career multi-homer game on July 14 vs. Chicago was the first by a Royals shortstop since 1997.

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Royals Reach Deal With Escobar

ROYALS SIGN SHORTSTOP ALCIDES ESCOBAR TO A MULTI-YEAR CONTRACT
Four-Year Guaranteed Contract Also Includes Club Options for 2016 and 2017

SURPRISE, AZ (March 15, 2012) — The Kansas City Royals today announced the club has reached an agreement on a multi-year contract with shortstop Alcides Escobar. The contract includes four guaranteed years through the 2015 season, then club options for each of the following two seasons: 2016 and 2017. Consistent with club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The 25-year-old Escobar spent his first season with the Royals in 2011 after being acquired in a six-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on December 19, 2010. The defensive standout tied for the Major League lead with 158 games at shortstop while pacing baseball with 459 assists, 745 total chances and 271 putouts. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder batted .254 with 21 doubles, eight triples, four home runs, 46 RBI and 69 runs scored. In addition, he stole a career-best 26 bases, becoming one of four shortstops in Royals history to steal 20 or more bases in a season (Freddie Patek, U.L. Washington and Angel Berroa). After a slow start, Escobar hit .286 from June 7 through the remainder of the season, including batting .324 in the month of September.

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Tall Contributions From Short

The last three weeks we took a look around the outfield. Beginning this week we start working our way around the infield. Starting with perhaps the most important position within. Where defense, especially where the National League is concerned, carries as much weight as offense. Shortstop.

For the Cardinals the infield figures to look drastically different than opening day in 2011.  Lance Berkman takes over at first base, Rafael Furcal returns to shortstop, and it appears Tyler Greene, yes that Tyler Greene will get a shot as the starting second baseman. This could be the year that David Freese establishes himself as one of the best third basemen in the sport after his breakout October.

I digress. Rafael Furcal gives the Cardinals their best opening day starter at short since Edgar Renteria. Now before all the David Eckstein supporters get all hot and bothered understand, as scrappy and terrific as he was, Furcal offers a better defensive presence and hits leadoff. The hope for St. Louis is they get more of the Furcal they saw in St. Louis after the trade than the one in LA or masquerading as the Cardinal shortstop during the playoffs.

In a division with a legitimate All-Star, Starlin Castro, holding court up on the north side of Chicago and plenty of rookies and new comers 2012 should prove an interesting year in the NL Central. Here is the breakdown.

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro logged an impressive 2011. With 21 steals and a .307 average, the 21-year-old has developed a terrific profile for a leadoff hitter and if he can expand on his power next season he could join the top tier of shortstop options. Castro had five hitting streaks of at least 10 games, and he finished the season with a streak of reaching base safely in 40 consecutive games. He finished with 57 multi-hit games, tied for the NL lead with three others, and led the league in at-bats. What Castro does need to improve upon is his defense — he led all Major League shortstops with 29 errors.

Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart had Tommy John reconstructive surgery only 11 games into the 2011 season.  Since the surgery was on his non-throwing elbow, Cozart has already resumed baseball activities and is thought of as a top candidate to ultimately capture the shortstop position full time. During those 11 games for Cincinnati — including nine starts — following a July 7 promotion from Triple-A Louisville, Cozart batted .307 with two home runs and three RBIs. His career in the Majors began with a seven-game hitting streak.  Shortstop has been one of the most unstable positions for the Reds over the past several years, and that’s something they very much want to correct.

New to the NL Central is Jed Lowrie.  Lowrie, a switch-hitter who has been injured often in his four-year Major League career, will become the Astros’ starter at shortstop. In his time with Boston The 27-year-old was never able to accumulate more than 300 at-bats in a season.  Lowrie doesn’t possess great range at shortstop, but his strength is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. He’s a career .326 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage against left-handers, but against right-handers is just a .214 hitter with a .293 on-base percentage. One thing Lowrie will bring is playoff experience, having helped the Red Sox reach the postseason in 2008 and ’09.

The Brewers signed Alex Gonzalez, filling the most glaring hole on their roster before at the Winter Meetings. Gonzalez has played at least 110 games in eight of the past nine seasons — he sat out 2008 because of a family issue — and is considered a plus defensive player. He was with the Braves in ’11, hitting .241 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. Offensively, he is similar to his predecessor, Yuniesky Betancourt. Gonzalez (.270 on-base percentage) and Betancourt (.271) had the lowest on-base percentage of qualifying National League hitters.

The Pirates have filled their hole at shortstop, replacing Ronny Cedeno with Clint Barmes. Barmes played a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop last season for the Astros who elected not to bring him back in 2012. Barmes led all regular NL shortstops in 2011 with a 7.9 ultimate zone rating, a sabermetric statistic that calculates how many more runs a player saves on defense than an average replacement.  Barmes missed the first couple of weeks of the season after breaking his hand in Spring Training and wound up hitting .244 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.

The 34-year-old Rafael Furcal came to the Cards from the Dodgers in a Trade Deadline deal and hit .255 with a .316 on-base percentage in 50 regular-season games with St. Louis. Furcal had a rough time at the plate in the playoffs, hitting below .200 in both the NLCS and World Series. What keeps him in the game is his defense. Even at 34 his range and arm are among the best in baseball.  Furcal turned a National League shortstop-high 36 double plays and was ranked second in both total chances (238) and assists (155).

Looking back on 2011 and based on past performance, career trends  and my mood today here is how I see them stacking up in 2012.

  1. Starlin Castro
  2. Alex Gonzalez
  3. Rafael Furcal
  4. Zack Cozart
  5. Jed Lowrie
  6. Clint Barmes

In a division with a legitimate All-Star, Starlin Castro , holding court up on the north side of Chicago and plenty of rookies and new comers 2012 should prove an interesting year in the NL Central.

Follow Derek on twitter at @SportsbyWeeze

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The Long and Short ”Stop” of It

The Kansas City Royals have been slightly active again this week.  They have signed all of their arbitration eligible players except for Alex Gordon.  It will be interesting to see if the Royals are able to sign to a long term contract.  There have been rumors of this in the media, but only time will tell.  This week, will start our look at the American League Central infielders by reviewing the shortstops of each team.  The following statistics will give us a view of each player’s 2011 season.

 

 

Team Player Avg. OBP SLG OPS H 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Chi Alexei Ramirez .269 .328 .399 .727 165 31 2 15 70 7
Cle Asdrubal Cabrera .273 .332 .460 .792 165 32 3 25 92 17
Det Jhonny Peralta .299 .345 .478 .824 157 25 3 21 86 0
KC Alicdes Escobar .254 .290 .343 .633 139 21 8 4 46 26
Min Jamey Carroll .290 .359 .347 .706 131 14 6 0 17 10

 

The Chicago White Sox will start one of the more proven commodities at shortstop.  Alexei Ramirez in his four full seasons with the White Sox has been a consistent performer on offense.  Ramirez has a career .279 batting average.  Alexei has always had a consistent power stroke averaging 19 home runs, 26 doubles a season.  Alexei will provide the White Sox a solid offensive contribution and will play a solid short stop.  The White Sox know what they are getting from Ramirez and should be excited.

The Cleveland Indians will be starting Asdrubal Cabrera.  2011 was the best all around offensive year of Cabrera’s career.  Cabrera has hit for a solid average in each of his first five seasons, a .281 career average.  Asdrubal has always had the ability to hit for some power as he has average 36 doubles a season.  He had never found that home run stroke until last year when he hit 25 home runs.  His previous career high had been 6.  Did Cabrera finally develop some home run power?  This season should be interesting.  If Cabrera can hit like he did last season and add a injury free season from Sizemore and Hafner, the Indians could once again be a surprise team in the central.

The Detroit Tigers will start Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.  Last season Peralta had one of his best offensive seasons.  In nine seasons Peralata had a career .268 batting average.  Last season his average jumped thirty points higher than his career average as Peralta hit .299.  Peralata has always had good power for a shortstop.  Peralta averages 34 doubles, 19 home runs, and 83 rbi’s a season.  With all the power bats in the Tigers lineup, Peralta will slide into the 6 or 7 slot and continue to produce as he has throughout his career.

The Kansas City Royals will start Alcides Escobar.  In his second full big league season, Escobar showed signs of greatness with his glove.  His bat on the other hand showed signs of Tony Pena Jr.  At times Escobar showed signs that his bat could provide a spark when he gets hot.  Escobar’s biggest issue at the plate is his patience.  With an average of .254 and an OBP of only .290, obviously Escobar needs to improve this number.  If Escobar is able to hit .260 and have an OBP in the .330 neighborhood and continue to play what I thought was Gold Glove caliber defense, he will be an asset to the Kansas City Royals.

The Minnesota Twins will begin the season with Jamey Carroll at shortstop.  Carroll is an aging shortstop who has always been a decent hitter for average.  In his 10 major league seasons, Carroll has hit for an average of .278.  In his last two seasons with Dodgers in 2010 and 2011, Carroll posted a .291 and .290 average.  Carroll has never shown any power.  His career high in doubles is 23 in 2006.  His career high in home runs is 5 also in 2006.  Since then Carroll has not even come close to those numbers.  Carroll will definitely struggle hitting in Minnesota and as he has aged his first step is slowing and he is trending downwards.

Now that all shortstops have briefly been discussed, I will rank them from 1 to 5 in my point of view as to how their overall production for the 2012 season will stack up.

  1. Alexei Ramirez
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Jhonny Peralta
  4. Alcides Escobar
  5. Jamey Carroll

From my point of view, Alexei Ramirez will continue to produce the way he has his entire major league career and provide a solid bat in the White Sox line up.  If Asdrubal can show his power stroke was not a fluke, he could definitely be the #1 shortstop by a long shot.  Was last season a fluke?  This season could answer a lot of questions with the Indians.  Jhonny Peralta will be Jhonny Peralta, a decent average, but a player who will be helped a ton by the bats around him.  As for Escobar, his offense shows room for improvement, but he will play a gold glove caliber shortstop.  If he can improve his plate discipline Escobar could also move up this list.  As for Jamey Caroll, what is there to get excited about?

 

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The Short Of It: Rollins, Furcal, Theriot, Greene… Or Someone Else?

For those of you who consider yourselves to be “big”Cardinals fans, I have a challenge for you: Name the Cardinals’ starting shortstops over the past 4 seasons. It doesn’t sound like a hard question, but I myself could not come up with all of them without doing a little research. It’s not a trick question, I’m not including any one-day minor league call-ups here, I’m simply asking for the names of the players who’ve been given a legitimate opportunity to claim the starting job as their own. I’ll give you a hint: since World Series MVP David Eckstein left town following the 2007 season, there’s been EIGHT of them…and that’s exactly what makes the question so hard to answer. Eight different starting shortstops over the past four seasons for a franchise that had only four different starters at that position over the previous 25 years: Ozzie Smith (’82-’96), Royce Clayton (’96-’98), Edgar Renteria (’99-’04), and David Eckstein (’05-’07). It’s hard to believe, really.

We’ll get to the answer of the question in a little bit, but first I want to look at a different question: “Who is going to be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop in 2012?” There are plenty of options, and some are better than others, but for a team needing some stability up the middle, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the job. Let’s take a closer look at some of the options.

Raefael Furcal
Rafael Furcal battled through injuries most of the season, but provided a big jolt to the Cardinals’ offense. He had a disappointing World Series at the plate, but had several key hits in the Cardinals’ frantic playoff run and in the NLDS and NLCS. Furcal just turned 34 years old, and has seen his stolen base total plummet over the past four seasons. Furcal is exceptional in the field defensively, and though his batting average was only .231 this year, he typically hits around .280 and draws a decent amount of walks. He also blended well with the other Cardinals’ players and helped the team to a World Series title. It remains unclear whether the Cardinals plan on keeping Furcal, who’s now a free agent.

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins is the most interesting free agent shortstop on the market now that Jose Reyes has signed with the Miami Marlins. Defensively, Rollins is sound like Furcal, committing just 7 errors last season at short. Rollins is a year younger than Furcal, and also brings a little more power to the plate… but those numbers have faded a bit, and it’s important to keep in mind that Citizen’s Bank Park is one of the friendliest hitter’s parks in the league. Rollins carries a .268 career batting average, and has never hit .300+ for a season. The perception is that Rollins will be the most expensive shortstop on the market, so it’s unclear whether the Cardinals’ management team thinks he’d be worth significantly more money than Furcal

Ryan Theriot
Theriot is a decent hitter who brings a little power and didn’t strike out much last season, but his he has to hit better than .271 to make up for his deficiencies on defense. Theriot had 17 errors in just 91 games last season, and doesn’t have the range that Rollins and Furcal have. Theriot will be 32 years old heading into the 2012 season.

Tyler Greene
If Tyler Greene is the starting shortstop for St. Louis next season, I will be shocked. Is he an inexpensive stop-gap while the team looks for a long term solution at short…yes… but he has done nothing at the big league level to show he’s ready to take over the everyday starting job. Greene’s defense and offense have struggled, and at 28, he just may not be everyday big league material.

By all accounts, the Cardinals send one of these players out to play between second and third on Opening Day next season, but none of them appear to be long term solutions (though Rollins would likely sign for a few years). With that in mind, it’s time to go back to our original question: “Can you name all eight of the Cardinals’ starting shortstops over the past four seasons?” We’ve already named three of them in Furcal, Theriot, and Greene. We’re missing Brendan Ryan, Julio Lugo, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis, and Khalil Greene. If you knew them all off the top of your head, I’m thoroughly impressed. Let’s just hope this question doesn’t become even harder in the years to come.

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Royals Gallimaufry II

• With the release of the 2012 Royals schedule, the only thing that jumps out at me is a visit from the Brewers of Milwaukee June 12–14. I very much hope Zack Greinke will not pitch in the series. It would only bring up unpleasantness from the past and mean spirit from some Royals fans.

Bruce Chen is a magician. I had one of those perfect nights at the park this Tuesday, where the weather could not be better and the good guys make the Twins look silly. Chen was the main reason, plowing through the Twins for eight innings with his off-speed, arm-slot varying slop. His game score of 85 was the best of the year for the Royals. He continues to outshine his unimpressive defense-independent stats for a second straight year, and while the saber-nerd in me knows he is probably due to regress, I can not help but believe in some of the cliches. That Chen just “knows how to pitch.” I would be glad to see him back in Royal blue again next year to see if he can extend the magic show.

• Before the game on Tuesday, Twins player Michael Cuddyer took some fantastic photos around Kauffman Stadium that you can see here.

• In my previous gallimaufry, I proposed a few metrics that could be used to come up with a new pitcher’s record and showed how each Royals starter was faring by classifying starts as a “win” for a quality start, positive win probability added or game score of 51+. Here are those updated records (through the 13th):

The team-wide average of the three records (64-85) is just one game different than the team’s actual record (63-84). For me, the quality start and game score records of 66-83 are too kind to what has been a very bad staff. The win probability added record of 59-90 sounds just right.

• For whatever it is worth, Alcides Escobar has gained the MLB lead in shortstop UZR with a current rating of 9.5 runs above average. Factor in offense though, and he only comes out at 17th of 22 qualified shortstops in fWAR. He is on the short list of the worst hitters in the league: His 68 wRC+ is fourth worst among qualified hitters and his -5 win probability added is by far the worst.

• While the 2011 season has been another lost cause in the standings, I am dreading the season’s end. In years past, it can feel merciful, but this year it feels like the real Royals are just taking shape. Ever since Sal Perez debuted on August 10, the lineup of the future is suddenly here in the present, and man are they talented and fun to watch. 2012 could very well be bogged down by starting pitching woes again, but the position players make me feel opening day can not get here soon enough.

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How Much Escobar Has To Hit

One of the crucial factors in the Royals quest to contend in the coming years is the bat of shortstop Alcides Escobar. The glove is clearly exceptional, so if he can complement it with a just a little hitting prowess, the Royals will be set at one of the premium positions. The question becomes just how much Escobar has to hit. Escobar himself told the Kansas City Star he feels he needs to have over a .280 average to be one of the best shortstops in the AL. “Baseball men” also talked in terms of batting average when telling Star writer Sam Mellinger how much Escobar has to hit, but we stat nerds can get more exact than that.

photo by Minda Haas

To answer the question, you must first quantify what his defense is worth. Defensive metrics are notoriously inexact when compared to offensive ones, but with a large sample size, they can shed a lot of light on just how many runs above or below average a fielder allows. Between 2003—2010, the best shortstop in MLB by Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has prevented an average of 17.0 more runs than the average shortstop (RAA). Over the same time period, the metric Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) shows that the best shortstop prevented an average of 24.4 RAA. Here are the averages of the top five shortstops per year between 2003—2010:

Reasonable minds will differ on where Escobar might be expected to fall on those lists. In 2011, Escobar currently ranks second among shortstops in UZR (at 6.3) and tied for second in DRS (at 10). If he plays in 160 games this year, he is on pace to finish with a 12.3 UZR and a 20.5 DRS. It is impossible to know if those numbers reflect Escobar’s true defensive talent level, but they seem to match what people are seeing with their eyes. Projecting how many runs Escobar can be expected to prevent with his defense is not scientific. My guess is 15 RAA a year. It seems fair in that it puts him in rare company without getting crazy and expecting 20+ RAA year in and year out. If anything, 15 is a little optimistic, considering his career UZR per 160 games is only 3.9, but we will assume Escobar plays at the elite level of 15 RAA per year for this exercise.

Escobar can also be expected to add some value as a decent base runner. Fangraphs valued his base running in 2010 at 2.9 RAA. His career rate per 160 games is 2.5, which seems like a good number to use as his true talent level.

So. Plug in those 15 RAA on defense and 2.5 RAA running the bases into this handy WAR calculator (courtesy Jeff Zimmerman), adjust the league average wOBA down to .325 (it was .327 last season, and is .321 so far this year), assume 600 plate appearances, and you can get some answers about what Escobar’s overall value might be at different levels of offensive production.

First let’s get an idea of how much value the best shortstops provide. Here is the average fWAR the top ten MLB shortstops have posted over the last eight seasons (keeping in mind zero is replacement level and 2.0 is roughly average):

Now the payoff. This chart shows what Escobar has to wOBA, assuming my estimations of his defensive and base running values, to reach various benchmarks:

To answer the question, you have to decide what you want in Escobar. Want an average shortstop? He only needs to wOBA .278…which happens to very close to his career mark to date. I think Royals fans want a little more than an average shortstop, even if that would be an upgrade over most of the shortstops we have put up with over the last few decades. Want a nice 3 win player? Look for a wOBA close to .300. To be a top ten shortstop in the MLB, Escobar might need to wOBA .310.

Here is my answer: Escobar needs to wOBA at least .290. In my mind, that would make him a slightly above average shortstop in terms of overall worth, and I could live with that. I think he is easily capable of posting a .290 wOBA in the coming years. To get an idea of what kind of production is needed for a .290 wOBA, here is Jason Bartlett’s 2011 AVG/OBP/SLG line: .249/.317/.309. His wOBA is .289. It’s not asking for much. Given a few more years, his wOBA ceiling might go as high as .320, which could move him up into stud territory. So far in his young career, he has only hit enough to be a roughly average overall shortstop. If he can wOBA .290+ in the coming years, the Royals will really have a shortstop on their hands.

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Escobar’s Forgotten Affair

The Royals faithful know of Alcides Escobar’s resurgence of late at the plate (.419 in his last dozen games). They know that he is one of the best shortstops in the Show; and adding a bat to that glove, his value to the Royals skyrockets. Ned Yost saw the potential all year and continued to let Escobar bat in the lineup every day. He refused to replace Escobar late in games with a better hitter so that he could get late-game hitting experience and stay in games longer. Royals fans know all of this.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

They don’t know about Alcides’ scandalous past.

In their defense, the story hasn’t been discussed in a couple of years and, at the time, was focused on a AA Brewers prospect. But now that he’s playing for their team, Royals fans should know who they’re rooting for.

In 2009, Escobar’s wife Leury came out with big allegations against her new husband. As a disclaimer, the following story is told only from her side of things. The only statements made from Alcides have come through his former Venezualan team’s PR man, whose only defense for him was that he pays child support and that his wife is covered under MLB’s insurance policy. No news has come out in years relating to this, so we can’t know if anything has changed.

Using several sources who publicized these events (many of them Leury’s personal accounts), this is a reconstruction of Alcides Escobar’s ugly relationship with his wife.

* * * * *

In 2008, current Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was married to Leury Moreno, daughter of 1979 World Champion and 1985 Royal Omar Moreno. Soon after they were married, it was discovered that Leury was pregnant. The new couple was excited, buying new things for their baby as they prepared to be a family.

In October of 2008, Alcides left to play winter league ball with the Cardenales in Venezuela. Leury says this was the turning point in their relationship.

Being a US citizen, Leury couldn’t easily visit her husband in Venezuela. So one day, she called to check up on Alcides, who handed the phone to his mistress, who proceeded to badmouth her about her looks and how her relationship with Alcides was over. Leury continued to get calls and texts from her husband and his lover. Things got so bad that Alcides once told his wife that he had only married her for a green card. He wasn’t even in attendance when his daughter Gabriella was born prematurely. (Fortunately, she was born relatively healthy.)

Leury claims that Alcides was kicked off his Venezuelan team for bad conduct and that his family wants nothing to do with him.

At one point, Alcides apologized to Leury and said he still loved her and wanted her to visit him in Venezuela. But when she and her daughter arrived, they were met with divorce papers. Leury refused and went back home.

She is now a fashion designer in Florida. As far as anyone knows, he has only seen her and his kid once since he left them in 2008. He is now playing Major League ball in Kansas City for $428,000 this year.

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Again, I don’t want to trash Alcides Escobar if he has made up for what he’s done. If he has, it wasn’t publicized. If not, Royals fans should at least have this story in the back of their heads when they hear about the guy.

Postscript: You can hit me up at my Cardinals site or Twitter.

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