Alcides Escobar: An Early 2010 Projection

Last week the Brewers did the inevitable, trading J.J. Hardy to open a permanent position for Alcides Escobar (click here to view my thoughts on the deal).  The move instantly made fantasy owners across the country happy, as Escobar has long been heralded as one of the best prospects in the game.  Will he actually be able to make a major impact in 2010, however?

Before we answer that question, let’s look at the numbers he posted at Triple-A (prior to his recall):

430 At Bats
.298 Batting Average (128 Hits)
4 Home Runs
34 RBI
76 Runs
42 Stolen Bases
.353 On Base Percentage
.409 Slugging Percentage
.343 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The majority of his value comes from his speed, but is that something that he will be allowed to display on the major league level?  He had just four stolen bases in 38 games last season, though he had just four at bats hitting above seventh limiting his opportunity to run.

At the same time, the Brewers have not been a big-time running team the past few seasons.  Let’s take a look at their yearly leader:

  • 2005 – Bill Hall – 18
  • 2006 – Rickie Weeks – 19
  • 2007 – Rickie Weeks – 25
  • 2008 – Corey Hart – 23
  • 2009 – Ryan Braun – 20

Is it that the team lacked that explosive stolen base threat or is it the style of the team?  Rickie Weeks certainly does not have the same electricity on the base paths and we have seen Hart and Braun steal 20+ bases hitting in the middle of the order, so it is hard for me to believe that the Brewers will not give him the freedom to run.  Of course, that assumes he’s slotted into the leadoff spot.

That, however, could be the only real virtue he has for owners.  He has very little power, and I’m not just talking about home runs.  Just look at the number of doubles he’s had in his career:

  • 2005 – 25 (517 AB)
  • 2006 – 9 (351 AB)
  • 2007 – 13 (533 AB)
  • 2008 – 25 (548 AB)
  • 2009 – 24 (423 AB)

You can argue that he’s getting triples instead, but it’s not really true, having never reached double-digits in a season.  For his career he’s boasted just a 28.5% flyball rate (compared to a 55.2% groundball rate), which helps display his lack of extra base power.

While putting the ball on the ground and using his speed is the proper formula for him, you would like to see a little bit more potential to get more than one base at a time.  He’s going to need to consistently find holes, though he’s likely to find the defenses in the major leagues better than he’s used to.  His career minor league average is at .298, thanks to a .346 BABIP, so he could see a decline there.

He struck out 15.1% at Triple-A last season, a number that will likely rise slightly, also limiting his potential average.  Throw in an inability to draw many walks (6.9%) and you have to wonder just how much value he’s going to have.

Let’s take a look at my preliminary projection for him:
.278 (153-550), 3 HR, 40 RBI, 85 R, 32 SB, .328 BABIP, .328 OBP, .371 SLG

Obviously, I’m assuming that the Brewers ultimately decide to bat him atop the order, with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder lying in wait to drive him in.  If they opt instead to utilize Rickie Weeks in the leadoff spot once again, instead using Escobar in the seventh or eighth hole, both the runs and stolen bases are likely to fall short of these numbers.

We’ll have to keep a close eye on the news as the offseason progresses to get a better idea of their plans, but this is where I currently am.  What do you think?  Are they optimistic?  Pessimistic?  What do you expect from him?

Previous 2010 Projections:

To read the previous article, click here.

Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.

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