Can Alcides Escobar Produce At 2B In 2009?

With Rickie Weeks done for the season, the Brewers must find a replacement. For now, it appears to be Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell, but anybody can tell you that won’t cut it. Casey McGehee is barely a major league player, much less a starter on a contender, and Craig Counsell himself has said that he can’t play every day. The Brewers have called up Hernan Irribarren, but he also likely does not posses the talent necessary to play 2B every day for a team contending for a playoff spot. One in-house option that has been bandied about and the Brewers are indeed preparing is top SS prospect Alcides Escobar. I have no doubt that Escobar will be a productive major leaguer in the future. However, is he ready to produce, and at 2B, a position that requires a better bat than SS?

Escobar earned a cup of coffee in the majors last year in the form of a September callup, but there’s really nothing for us to learn from that. Instead, let’s examine his minor league numbers. Defensively, Escobar shined last year, producing a +24 runs above average year with the glove in AA, his first year above average. Adjusting for the move from AA to the major leagues, I would say a fair estimate for Escobar as a ML SS would be between +5 and +15 runs at shortstop over 150 games. Although 2B is an easier position to play in general, the adjustment would likely knock down our projection to +0 to +10, which is still excellent.

Of course, fielding is not and never has been the issue with Escobar. The question is what kind of offensive ability can he produce. Before examining that, let’s take a look at what kind of offensive numbers it will take for Escobar to be produce at the level of an average major leaguer, given his defensive skills. An average ML player produces 2 wins above replacement over 600 PAs. We know that over 600 PAs, a 2B with average defense and fielding is worth 22.5 RAR. So then this table below shows the wOBA necessary for Escobar to be an average player.


wOBA necessary for 20 RAR


.327 (-2.5 BRAA)


.318 (-7.5 BRAA)


.308 (-12.5 BRAA)

Now, let’s examine Escobar’s hitting ability. Escobar has shown limited ability at the plate in the minors, never posting an OPS above .707 until last year with AA Huntsville. Then, in 2008, Escobar broke out offensively. In just under 600 PAs, Escobar compiled a line of .322/.367/.440, for a .807 OPS, a full 100 points better than his previous career high. However, this line was created by an unsustainable BABIP of .380 and a LD% of 19.3, 4% higher than his career mark. We are seeing some of this regression this year with Escobar’s advancement to AAA Nashville. With only a .313 BABIP, Escobar’s line has dropped to .268/.315/.357, a .672 OPS.

Two stats that I especially like to look at with minor leaguers are Isolated Power and Isolated Discipline, or ISP and ISD as I will abbreviate them (ISOP and ISOD are also used for these; some people use ISO simply for isolated power). Both operate on similar principles - ISP is SLG - AVG, and ISD is OBP - AVG. Basically, these stats remove the impact of batting average on two stats that help us determine value most, OBP and SLG. The ability to hit for a high average declines as a player moves up the organizational ladder, due to both better defense and better pitching, and also varies due to luck. However, plate discipline and power, what ISP and ISD measure, are skills that are independent of the massive swings that we see in AVG. Below are Escobar’s stats over his career in the minors.





























Escobar’s isolated discipline and power stats have not shown improvement over his career in the minor leagues. As such, I have no reason to suspect that Escobar would magically see a rise in walks or power upon promotion to the big club.  As a result, similarly to what we’ve seen in the minors, Escobar will need a high batting average to sustain offensive production.  If Escobar can put up a .300 average in the majors, he can be productive. Anything below .275 and his bat is likely not ready to play 2B.

Let’s finally answer the question of whether or not his bat can be good enough to play in the major leagues, and for this year, especially at 2B. I think what we can expect from Escobar in the majors is something between his line at AAA and his Major League Equivalent statistics from AAA. Major League Equivalents, or MLEs, are formulas used to adjust for parks and skills of leagues to predict a minor league player’s performance in the major leagues. Here is the comparison of Escobar’s AAA performance to the corresponding MLE, obtained at Brew Crew Ball editor Jeff Sackmann’s website Minor League Splits.


















































As the OPS numbers make obvious, Escobar does not project as a very good hitter. I don’t believe that Escobar is as bad as his AAA MLEs would predict. If he were that bad, he would need to be over +20 with the glove to get back to replacement level. Perhaps, if Escobar can hit at the level he has at AAA and that he showed he could last year in AA, he would be ready to be a stopgap. Still, this level of production essentially caps Escobar’s value at 2B for the rest of the year at a 1.1 win player. Only if he is able to field at a truly elite level (+20 runs or better) could Escobar play as an average major leaguer, which is the likely level of production the Brewers need as a contender.

In my opinion, Escobar needs to remain at SS to retain his value, and still needs seasoning in AAA. Hopefully Hernan Irribarren can fill in, but I firmly believe that Escobar is not the answer at this point in time.

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2 Responses to “Can Alcides Escobar Produce At 2B In 2009?”

  1. blueguitarbob Says:

    I can’t see Escobar’s agent, Scott Boras, loving the idea of him moving to 2nd base. As shown in this post, it significantly decreases his value. Unless he suddenly elevates to another level as a hitter, he would be smart to stay at SS and have a nice career in the majors… probably not with the Brewers.

  2. Golly G Says:

    Nice work. I agree on Escobar, but I think he is worth a look….before a trade is made. DeRosa of Cleveland is a perfect match. Also, since Melvin and Shapiro made a deal last year, I bet both teams have scouted each other closely to know enough to get a deal done quickly.

    Only issue is the Indians want MLB ready pitching. I doubt this is possible. Unless they accept C Villenueva. They may have to accept a T Greene or A Salmone or another good, not great prospect.

    I’d make that move. C Hart leading off makes me sick.

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