Escobar ‘Experiment’ Over
Apparently, minor league prospect Alcides Escobar won’t be the answer to replacing the injured Rickie Weeks at second base this season for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this morning that Escobar will be moved back to his ‘natural’ shortstop position after spending most of the last week at second base. Escobar committed five errors over the course of seven starts at second for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, leaving him with an .879 fielding percentage at that position. By comparison, that is exactly the same number as that noted butcher of the leather, Mat Gamel, had over the course of 5 minor league seasons at third base.
Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin glossed over Escobar’s failure by pointing out how difficult the transition from short to second is to make. At this point though, I’m questioning whether Escobar will even be the answer at shortstop. Despite his ‘wizard-like’ defensive reputation, he has yet to complete a full season with less than 20 errors. Escobar’s apologists contend that his range is superior to the average shortstop but, as my friend Chris correctly points out, what good does it do to get to a ball if you’re going to boot it or throw it away once you get there? If Escobar truly is the defensive player he is supposed to be, it shouldn’t be too much to expect him to be at least competent at second base, a switch that untold others have made seamlessly.
Current Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy is on record saying that he would be reluctant to move from shortstop yet every time he struggles for a stretch, you hear the calls for Escobar’s promotion to the big leagues. Obviously, his supporters haven’t taken a good look at Escobar’s minor league numbers. True, Escobar has hit for a respectable average in the high minors but he would provide much less power than Hardy. He also strikes out much more than he ‘walks’; hardly a commodity in which the Brewers historically are lacking.
Hardy may not be the best shortstop offensively or defensively, but he is a relatively steady presence only one season removed from an All-Star game appearance. At only 26 years old, he also should be just coming into the prime of his career. Better to leave him where he is than to rely on an unknown that has yet to live up to his press clippings.