Alcides Escobar struggled at the plate last season and some feel that Ned Yost should in 2014 at least entertain the idea of having someone bat for Alcides late in a close game. Others are even more concerned and feel that we should carry on the 25 man roster someone who can resemble a shortstop's glove with the additional ability to hit better than Escobar. I feel that both ideas are unfounded and that the team should actually have the replacement shortstop playing full-time in Omaha.
Alcides Escobar had his worst batting year of his major league career last season, with a wRC+ of 49. Alcides hit a poor wRC+ 65 facing left-handed pitching and was even worse facing righties, with a wRC+ of 42. One might think that Ned Yost would have frequently had someone bat for Alcides Escobar last season late in some close contest, but it actually only happened three times. George Kottaras was the batter all three times. Three other plate appearances by a batter at Escobar's slot in the order happened when Ned pulled Alcides for rest during two games, but the team was already down eight and twelve runs when Mr. Escobar was replaced (Ciriaco had two plate appearances one of those games, Getz had one plate appearance in the other contest). Basically, Ned Yost used a pinch-hitter only three times all last season for Escobar when the games counted:
August 30. Trailing Toronto by one run in the ninth, with runners on first and second and one out, George Kottaras bats for Escobar and lines out to center field. The Royals lose the game.
August 31. Trailing Toronto by two runs in the ninth, with a runner on first and one out, George Kottaras bats for Escobar and singles, sending the runner to third. Getz runs for Kottaras. Gordon strikes out. Getz is thrown out stealing. The Royals lose the game.
September 9. Trailing Cleveland by one run in the ninth, with runners at second and third and two outs, George Kottaras bats for Escobar and walks. Gordon flies out. The Royals lose the game.
Ned Yost did not have anyone except George Kottaras bat for Alcides Escobar last season when it really mattered. Perhaps George Kottaras has a secret value. Kottaras has a career (sample of 820 plate appearances) wRC+ of 98, better than Escobar's career best of 96 set in 2012. George has a career wRC+ facing lefties of 87, better than Escobar's career best of 86 set in 2012. George also has a career wRC+ facing right-handed pitching of 101, tying Alcides' career best set in 2012. Perhaps Ned Yost was just sure of Escobar returning to 2012 form at any moment last year and would not trust anybody to bat for Alcides unless the player had established a track record as good as, or better than, Mr. Escobar's career highs.
We don't have George Kottaras this year. All of the pinch-hitting candidates have at least one career flaw compared to Alcides Escobar's 2012 numbers, something Kottaras did not suffer from. Consider some candidates:
Justin Maxwell. (overall career wRC+ 102, vs L 115, vs. R 93. Better than Kottaras facing lefties and overall, but worse than George facing righties. Sample of 874 plate appearances.
Ramon Hernandez (overall career wRC+ 96, vs. L 101, vs. R 97. Better than Kottaras facing lefties, but worse than George facing righties and overall. Sample of 5,701 plate appearances.
Danny Valencia (overall career wRC+ 93, vs. L 140, vs. R 69. Better than Kottaras facing lefties, but only as good as an average Escobar year (69) facing righties. Sample of 1,261 plate appearances.
Lorenzo Cain (overall career wRC+ 89, vs. L 85, vs. R 91. Cain hits lefties almost like Kottaras, but not as well both overall and when facing righties. Sample of 867 plate appearances.
Jason Donald (overall career wRC+ 86, vs. L 116, vs. R 70. Like Valencia, better than Kottaras facing lefties and about average Escobar facing righties. Sample of 603 plate appearances. Jason's has an OPS of .781 in 2,493 career minor league plate appearances (.838 vs L, .684 vs.R over the last 3 years).
Pedro Ciriaco (overall career wRC+ 84, vs. L 76, vs. R 89. Worse than George Kottaras in all respects. Sample of 449 plate appearances. Pedro's minor league career OPS is .656 in 3,673 plate appearances (.671 vs L, .703 vs. R over the last 3 years).
Mike Moustakas (overall career wRC+ 83, vs. L 64, vs. R 90. Worse than George Kottaras in all respects. Mike's career facing lefties is similar to Escobar's 2013 effort (65) against portsiders. Sample of 1,493 plate appearances.
Jarrod Dyson (overall career wRC+ 81, vs. L 36, vs. R 93. Worse than George Kottaras in all respects. Dyson's career facing lefties is much worse than Escobar's bad year. Sample of 687 plate appearances.
Carlos Peguero (overall career wRC+ 69, vs. L -28, vs. R 81. We won't mention his small sample facing portsiders, but he has managed to hit righties a bit better than an average Alcides. Sample of 219 plate appearances. Peguero's career OPS in the minors sits at .838 with plate appearances of 3,133 (.806 vs. L, .878 vs. R over the last 3 years).
Brett Hayes (overall career wRC+ 67, vs. L 52, vs. R 71. Compared to an average Escobar year, Brett hits righties about like Alcides, but doesn't have the stick to match Escobar's worst effort facing southpaws. Sample of 375 plate appearances. Brett has a minor league career OPS .of 693 in 1.953 plate appearances (.602 vs. L, .877 vs. R over the last 3 years).
Johnny Giavotella (overall career wRC+ 65, vs. L 63, vs. R 66). So far, Johnny has hit about Escobar's worst year facing lefties and Alcides' average year facing righties. Sample of 424 plate appearances. Giavotella has managed an OPS of .816 in his minor league career with 2,815 plate appearances (.758 vs. L, .875 vs. R over the last 3 years).
Jimmy Paredes (overall career wRC+ 60, vs. L -3, vs. R 81. Minus territory facing southpaws, but superior to an average Escobar against right-handed pitching. Sample of 396 plate appearances. Jimmy's minor league career OPS is .752 with plate appearances of 2,567 (.751 vs. L, .808 vs. R over the last 3 years).
Others, by career minor league OPS: Adam Moore .828, 2.237 PA. Brandon Laird .777, 3,318 PA. Melky Mesa .751, 2,811 PA. Paulo Orlando .721, 3,539 PA. Gorkys Hernandez .715, 3,464 PA. Christian Colon .713, 1,779 PA. Francisco Pena .634, 2,276 PA.
If one looks carefully over this list, it appears that nobody has the necessary George Kottaras Credentials to bat for Alcides Escobar. Unless Ned Yost has a different idea this season, Alcides Escobar might never be pulled back to the dugout for a replacement hitter in 2014.
I also recommend to not entertain the thought that Alcides Escobar will be given days off and another shortstop is necessary for those instances. Even during a miserable 2013 year at the plate, Alcides was only given two games completely off (6/9 and 7/7) before September reinforcements arrived.