Just prior to the All-Star break I had the chance to check out Alices Escobar playing shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. It’s nice to know that $12.00 can still get you into a weeknight game at the big ball-yard in the Bronx. Thank you, StubHub.
Alcides is one of the uniquely-named Venezuelans, including Asdrubal Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, and Avisail Garcia (and that’s only the letter “A”). As Yankees television announcer Ken Singleton remarked last season after Escobar made a nice play, “Alcides Escobar. That’s a cool name.”
And a cool player. The lanky 26-year-old from La Sabana, VZ, signed to the Royals through 2017, gives the team a solid long-term shortstop. At 6’1” and 175, he’s sort of a mix between the tiny shortstops of old and the new prototype, built like Alex Rodriguez or Alcides’ countryman Asdrubal Cabrera–6’2” or better, solid like an NFL running back. The team’s general manager said Escobar was the key player in a 2010 deal which prised him from the Milwaukee Brewers.
A game like Tuesday’s proves Alcides’ worth on the major-league level. He turned two double plays and made a couple of other infield assists, including one on still-speedy Ichiro Suzuki. And although his batting average is suffering somewhat this season—he entered the game at .245—he laced an eighth inning double down the left-field line and scored on a subsequent hit to cement a close game for the visiting Royals. (Why are doubles always “laced”? Singles never are, and triples rarely so. Food for thought).
It was simply a quietly-professional night for a quietly-professional player. While Yankee fans may have watched in some consternation the rotating cast of Derek Jeter replacement shortstops this season, the Royals must be reassured to have the critical infield slot locked up for the next four seasons.
Escobar can also run the bases—he had 35 steals last season while batting .293—the Royals are surely hoping this career best was not an anomaly. In his breakout 2010 season for the Brewers he hit 10 triples. The next year, second in the AL in sacrifice hits. In the 5 hole, he led all shortstops in putouts, assists and games in 2011, but led the league in errors the following season.
So the Royals have Alcides signed (guaranteed) for $10.5 million for four seasons, which is basically what the Yankees spend on cold-cuts per season. Just rounding into his skill set, I’m not certain Escobar will ever become an All-Star or Gold Glove shortstop, but barring severe injury he should be a fixture as a Major-League shortstop for the next decade.
If you need a scorecard, Alcides is one of six Escobars in the big leagues, and one of three Escobar shortstops (Yunel, Tampa Bay; Eduardo, MInnesota). Fellow Venezuelan Eduardo, 24, is getting his first long-term look at the Big Show with an underperforming Twins team this season.
Next entry, we return to the days of old and the Mini-Me of shortstops, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros.