At What Point Should We Worry About Alcides Escobar?

Alcides Escobar still isn't hitting. His struggles haven't generated one fifth of the ire directed towards Kila Ka'aihue, although because Escobar plays a premium defensive position and is a Dayton Moore approved guy, that's understandable. I don't think anyone expected Escobar to actually be good at the plate, but if he's rock bottom bad, even if he plays superhuman defense, he won't be an impact player for the Royals.

Let's take a look at Escobar from a positive/negative breakdown.

Positives:

  • It isn't quite a positive, per se, but the biggest reason to not be too worried is that we're still dealing with a small sample of games. In the same way that Alex Gordon isn't likely to chase George Brett's franchise records this season merely based on 23 games, Escobar might simply be struggling at the worst possible time. We can't bury him for a bad month.
  • Escobar is just 24. As opposed to Kila, who is at an age where he's supposed to hit (if he's ever going to) Escobar is still a young player. Again, this is not actually a positive, but it is an anti-negative.
  • Escobar has hit for some decent batting averages in the minor leagues. He's a career .293 hitter at the minor league level. Not much, but something.
  • Escobar hit an empty .300 in 134 PAs with Milwaukee in 2009. It's not much, but it's something. 
  • He's a shortstop, so the bar is set very low.
  • Finally, and most importantly, Escobar is out there for his defense. It's too early to know, but his glovework certainly looks good. He's made the fine TPJ-esque plays, without TPJ's random hiccups. I'm not sure it's not over-rated, but the Royals likely believe that having a plus (scoutspeak!) defensive SS will be a huge benefit to a young pitching staff.
  • Negatives:

    • I'm not sure what anyone expected in the first place. Even accounting for his empty .300 average in 2009, Escobar is now a career .245/.290/.324 hitter in the Major Leagues. The bulk of those PAs have also come in the weaker league as well. He's likely never going to be even an average hitter.
    • Unless he's hitting 8th with the pitcher on deck, the dude simply can't get on base. His .290 OBP is inflated by a .331 figure in the 8th slot, 99% of which is from his Brewers days. Hitting 7th, his career OBP is .268. Hitting 9th, his career OBP is .244. Small samples abound, but these are not good numbers.
    • There is good scouting and statistical evidence that all speed/BA players don't translate well to the Major Leagues. Escobar's minor league success is in an area that is less meaningful than other skills/tools.
    • Although Escobar is young, he's not 21 either. His age works in his favor, but only to a point. He has 785 PAs at the Major League level at this point. He hit ok in 2009, and when given full time work in 2010, he hit .235/.288/.326.

    I don't want to bury Escobar just yet. His defense is supposedly excellent. However, just as we should say "defense counts" we also must say "offense counts" as well. What exactly is a reasonable expectation for Escobar at the plate? What is the best case scenario? That he hits an empty .275 that will probably coincide with an OBP and SLG around .320?

    The Royals are doing the right thing by playing Escobar every day. Hopefully, he gets 500 PAs this season. The Royals need to see what he can do. It remains an open question if he's a true long term solution at SS however.

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