After hearing so much about shortstop Alcides Escobar this off-season from Doug Melvin, I thought today would be a good day to go a little more in depth on Alcides.
Escobar's calling card is definitely his defensive abilities. He has terrific range, soft hands, and a plus throwing arm. His talents have been considered a little raw, but he seemed to turn the corner in that aspect after being called up to Double-A Huntsville. Escobar's fielding percentage jumped significantly from .944 to .981, so most scouts believe that he is now major league ready defensively.
Alcides, now 22-years old, has some issues on the offensive end to work out, however. His major criticisms have been his lack of power and lack of plate discipline. Escobar's lack of power can be seen by the fact he only had 21 extra-base hits in 494 at-bats. Couple that with only 18 BBs in the same time frame, and one can see that Alcides' offense needs to improve before he can legitimately be considered a major league ready prospect. He does have plus speed, but his base stealing skills are still extremely raw. This is shown by only having a 63% success rate (22 steals in 35 attempts). These criticisms can be tempered by the fact that he is only 22-years old, so he does have plenty of time to learn some patience and fill out his frame. He has the potential to be a dangerous offensive player through his ability to make contact and his speed.
With that said, however, Alcides does project very well as a leadoff hitter because of his speed and an extremely solid, if not fantastic, fielding shortstop. After all, it is very easy to overlook the fact that he did hit .283 after being sent up to Huntsville. Doug Melvin does not usually praise prospects as highly as he has Alcides, so management must see something special in this kid. He has been invited to Spring Training this year, so he'll have the opportunity to show what he can do on a bigger stage than what he has been used thus far. I expect to hear much more from Alcides in the next couple years, especially when J.J. Hardy is closing in on free agency.