Profile: SS - 5'10" - 150lbs -BT:S - TH:R - 2011 Age: 22
• Hit: 30-40
• Power: 30-40
• Eye: 35-45
• Range: 60-70
• Hands: 45-60
• Arm: 50-55
• Run: 45-50
An amateur free agent signing from Venezuela, Escobar signed with the club as a 17 year old and spent his first two seasons working with the White Sox Venezuelan and then Dominican League teams before making the move to the states in 2008 as a 19 year old. The White Sox almost immediately sent him to their A ball affiliate in Kannapolis - a typically aggressive move by the Sox.
Offensively Escobar is challenged. While he improved upon his horrendous performances from 2008 and 2009, we're still talking about someone who struggled to post an OPS of even .700. Escobar, unlike most well regarded position prospects does not have the average or better hand/bat speed to turn pitches around for power, or hold back and read a breaking ball for the extra instant.
That said, the White Sox coaching staff has done a very good job and Escobar has come a long ways. When he came to the states his swing was a mess, but now, it's actually pretty solid. He rotates his hips well, keeps his hands in, stays balanced and over his feet and hits off his back leg. When he gets out front on a fastball, he can actually turn it around with a little bit of authority, but he's a guess hitter who just lacks the natural abilities to be a plus hitter. At this point the hope is that they can squeak a little more refinement out of his swing and turn him into a low-end bat.
Of course, the bat isn't Escobar's calling card, it's his glove. A lot of people like to make the comparison to Omar Vizquel, but Escobar isn't the same type of defender. Where Vizquel had some of the greatest hands you'll ever see, Escobar has a propensity to boot one every now and then and he's still developing his footwork and pivots. But Escobar does have the one key ingredient for any defender, plus range. He gets good reads, has a quick first step and can make plays both to his left and to his right. His arm is more average than plus and he sometimes has trouble converting from deep in the hole, but he can still make all the plays.
To the extent that posting an OPS in the .700s can be a breakout offensive season, 2010 was just that for Escobar. For years everyone knew he had glove to spare, the question was whether he could ever hit enough to be even remotely playable. While he still projects to be barely playable at all with the bat, that still represents a rather significant leap forward for him. 2010 saw fundamental improvements in his mechanics and the results translated to the field with lower strikeout rates, and improved line drive rates. He still needs to learn to utilize the walk a LOT more in order to give himself a chance to at least post a .300-.320 OBP. That's still at the very low end of the playable level, but it's at least playable. Because despite the bump in power, he's never going to hit enough home runs in the Majors to make up for not getting on base.
Rey Ordonez. Same flashy if somewhat error prone D, same low average but high contact, low OBP, no power bat.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.