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02 Jun

Yunel Escobar

A Cuban defector, listed at 24 but who knows if that’s his real age? Unlike most Cubans, he went through the draft process and was chosen by the Braves in the second round in 2005. For some reason they assigned him to Rookie ball even though he was already allegedly 22 and had been playing baseball for God knows how long, and he demolished the league for eight games then was promoted to Rome. There he hit .313/.358/.470 in 214 PA and established himself as a prospect. The Braves assigned him to Mississippi in 2006.

Mississippi is a hard place to hit, and Escobar had an especially hard time, hitting .264/.358/.346. But he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League anyway, and won the batting title by hitting .407/.463/.558. The AFL is an extremely good hitting environment, but that was encouraging, as was a strong spring training with the big club. Assigned to Richmond, Escobar hit .333/.377/.452 and was called up when Chipper went on the DL.

He hasn’t hit for much power at all yet, ten career minor league homers. As I’ve mentioned a few times, if you don’t have any threat of the home run it’s hard to hit on the major league level, but Escobar has shown some doubles power and might yet emerge as a 10 HR a year guy, which should be enough if he can maintain his good batting averages and walk rates.

From what I can tell, he’s a bit of a tweener, not quite the range you’d like in a shortstop, a good third baseman with a strong arm but without the power desired from the position. Might be best suited for second base but that position should be spoken for through the next several seasons, and Lillibridge should be the heir apparent at shortstop, which should move Escobar into a utility role. He could thrive there and should be a lot better than the other candidates… Middle name is “Aaron”.

First Inning : Yunel Escobar

37 Responses to “Yunel Escobar”

  1. 1
    Jay10 Says:

    Nice write up Mac, I see us trying to trade him, with him showing that he can hit major league ball, granted it was only one game but still.

    Maybe we could trade him to a team that has a lot of power on it already but lack .300 hitters and good defense…the Cubs maybe. But I don’t really know what they have, pitching wise though.

  2. 2
    Hate King Says:

    I think I am going to like Escobar. More so than Prado, anyways. But that’s not saying much.

  3. 3
    petros Says:

    Well, it was just one game, I don’t want to get too excited too early. But it is at least encouraging that I don’t have to get used to Orr and Woodward filling in for chipper.

  4. 4
    Jay10 Says:

    Here’s video from today’s game, you can see all of the trash being thrown on the field…oh and Piniella’s ejection.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8v_HqyvN8A

  5. 5
    Brian J. Says:

    Honestly, Escobar’s already done more in the minors than Orr ever has (career 265/ 320/ 340 in the minors) and is a better hitter than Woodward. He’s also a slightly better hitter than Prado (283/ 314/ 365 in Richmond last year, 301/ 370/ 390 in Richmond this year) but is supposedly a year older. Escobar looks like a pretty good utility infielder in the making. I can’t say anything nearly that nice about Pradorrward.

  6. 6
    Godot Says:

    JC Holt is having himself a swell year in the Minors and pushing for the 2B spot, but there is no vacancy.

    On the flip ide, he has no power and his current #s include a very high BABIP. But still, another utility inf/trading chip

  7. 7
    JoeyT Says:

    Well, for the time being he’s better than Woodward, and if the same hype can be created around his glove as was created around Pena, Jr., maybe we can eventually get a prospect for him.

  8. 8
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Have you noticed that all of our minor league middle infielders have no power? Some of the third basemen have a little, but right now the top HR number for Braves minor league middle infielders is 3, by Lillibridge and Diory Hernandez.

  9. 9
    td Says:

    At Richmond, the whole team has very little power. As someone pointed out a few weeks ago, Graham Koonce is leading the team in homers with 6 and has only played in 19 games (he’s also batting a whopping .222). Billy McCarthy has 5 hrs in 40 games for second place – he’s tearing it up with a .216 avg. However, both players look like they have a little plate discipline.

    Mac, Prado has looked horrendous at 2nd base. I thought he had a decent rep as a fielder. Is he really as bad as he looks in the field or is it major league jitters?

  10. 10
    Godot Says:

    Give Pradoa break. he is pressing right now with a uppercut swing, and he did get hit in the face earlier in the game. I think he goes down tomorrow, and stupid Orr stays up.

    The only Braves IF showing any power in the minors is KK ( I dont wanna spell his name ). Campbell jsut came back, and he is showing good power, but struggling to make consistent contact. But I think he is going to be very good. Rome has the worst line up EVER

  11. 11
    Godot Says:

    And FWIW, there is lot of talk of braves picking up a high school arm with their first pick, but I think they should pick Heyward if he falls to #14. There are just too many projects in the minor league system right now

  12. 12
    Jeff M. Says:

    From what I see of Yunel, and we are talking of a ridiculously small sample size, I like him a bit. I think he could be what Wilson was for us the past couple of years minus the power (which was awfully nice to have). Since Aybar is AWOL, we need a player that can step in for Chipper and who can occasionally spell Renteria as well, Preferrably someone who doesn’t suck like Orr and Woodward. And since Renteria has little range to speak of, Escobar doesn’t have to have exceptional ranger either. He just has to hit. And if he can’t hit for power, which seems to be the case, he definitely needs to hit around .300 with doubles-power.

  13. 13
    Jay10 Says:

    Too bad we can’t trade up and get that Price kid…are there trades in the MLB draft?

  14. 14
    joshtothemaxx Says:

    Nope. No trades.

    I have no TV this summer. Is mlb.tv bandwith intensive? My internet kind of sucks too, and my workplace “doesn’t allow” streaming audio or video.

  15. 15
    Davey Says:

    I would recommend a 1MB or higher connection JoshTTM.

    Or else it’s going to keep getting stuck, or keep buffering.

  16. 16
    Frank Says:

    Smoltz pushed back–who’s starting tomorrow?

  17. 17
    Davey Says:

    The artist formerly known as Lance Cormier.

  18. 18
    Jay10 Says:

    Well since we’re talking draft, we have two picks in the first round this year.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2007/index.jsp?content=order

  19. 19
    Pedro Says:

    I think the 3B is goint to be given to Schuerzhol Jr.

  20. 20
    Frank Says:

    Re the draft–any signs the Braves are interested in Josh Smoker of Calhoun GA High?

  21. 21
    Stephen Says:

    Lillibridge has got to cut down on the strikeouts before he can be considered a bona fide prospect. Yesterday he only struck out twice and walked once. In 2 games for Richmond he has struck out 5 times.

    Normally I am very sympathetic to players who are promoted, but the truth is that Lillibridge wasn’t that impressive as a hitter at AA. He struck out 60 times at Mississippi putting him on course for a 150 K season–hardly desireable for a leadoff hitter.

    I never bought into the hype about Lillibridge–his 2006 numbers appear to be indicative of a player is old for his league. Maybe he will develop into a solid everyday shortstop, but until he cuts down on his strikeouts he has a long way to go….

    http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?n=Lillibridge%2520%2520SS&pos=&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=452121

    I do like th fact that the Braves are trying to find a place for Brayan Pena as they have tried him at 3B and LF.

  22. 22
    Frank Says:

    Trying Pena at 3B is ok but his real value would be having him as a backup catcher so Cox would use Salty at 1B or as a PH.

  23. 23
    Godot Says:

    Smoker is one the names which is being tosed about.

  24. 24
    Joshua Says:

    Anyone see the clip of the Braves AA manager (Wellman) getting tossed from the game on ESPN. It looked like he had a mental lapse – absolutely hillarious. I bet the video will be available soon. Any way you might be able to post that clip, MAC? I think everyone should have a chance to see that.

  25. 25
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Someone linked to it yesterday and I sent it on to Deadspin… The YouTube video is unembeddable.

  26. 26
    kc Says:

    As long as Escobar keeps Prado, Woodward, and Orr on the bench, his presence has improved the team a great deal already.

  27. 27
    mraver Says:

    My thoughts on the state of various Braves prospects-

    Elvis Andrus is basically treading water at this point; he’s 19 and in AA ball, but he’s not doing much. His glove is fine, but he’s going to eventually show that he can hit. Being “young for your level” can only get you so far, as you’ll eventually run out of levels to be “young” for. Still plenty of upside, but at this point he’s basically TPJ.

    Eric Campbell is doing just fine. An earlier comment said he was having trouble making contact, which is simply not true: he’s got 10BB against 8Ks in 78 ABs to this point. For a reference point, Chipper Jones’ career strikeout rate is 15% vs. Campbell’s 10% K-rate in A ball. This is just a case of bad luck on balls in play, which is bringing his numbers down across the board. His ISO is still .200, which is just fine, especially in Myrtle Beach.

    Tommy Hanson- wow. He’s putting up fantastic numbers: 69K, 20BB in 58IP. He’s still pretty young, but his numbers thus far are VERY promising. I figure he’ll get moved up to A-ball mid-season.

    Brent Lillibridge has been something of a disappointment. His K-rate has been just awful; seriously, it’s Dunn-esque, and while his eye is good, it’s no match for Dunn’s. Unless he cuts down the the strikeouts significantly, there’s no way he’ll ever be an ML regular. The notions of having him on the ML club next April are pretty much gone at this point, but he’s still got some time to develope. If he can put the ball in play enough to maintain a BA in the .270+ range, he should be able to get by provided he maintains his walk rate and plays strong defense at SS.

    Jamie Richmond hasn’t been dominating (K-rate is down in the 7-8K/9 range), but he’s been solid. He’s kept the walks down quite well, but unless he ratchets up the Ks a bit, he won’t be a top-of-the-rotation guy. Still, a pitcher who throws strikes consistantly has value at the ML level, although he’ll have to do better than 5 IP per start. Still plenty of time with this one.

    Joes Devine is still walking guys a bit more than you’d like to see, but the strikeouts have been more than ample. I think he was called up to the big club briefly (maybe he’s still here?) but I don’t think he ever got in a game. Which makes me wonder why he was ever called up. (Or if I’m just imagining the whole thing….) Anyhow, looks to me like the kid is ready to take another shot at big-league hitting. If Yates’s turnaround has become a 360, (and it’s starting to look that way to me) we could use another solid arm out there for late-inning work.

    And briefly, Yunel Escobar is undoubtably a better player than any of the Orr/Prado/Woodword triumverate, and should, IMO, stay in the majors for the remainder of the year (unless, of course, he is traded). I mean, seriously, why does Cox always insist on rostering 3 crappy MIs whenever Chipper goes down? It’s beyound me. Send Prado down and bring up Pena and DFA Orr when Chipper returns. Or DFA Petee first, I don’t really care which.

  28. 28
    Stephen Says:

    KC–I agree and the one of your troika that angers is me is Woodward. At least the Braves already had Orr and Prado might yet develop into a Many Trillo type. But Woodward–we already had Escobar (and for that matter Pena Jr.) then traded for Lillibridge and then added Woodward! Bobby seems to be searching the lost Lockhart only Woodward is much worse….

  29. 29
    Stephen Says:

    mraver–I agree with much of what you said, but Elvis Andrus is at Upper A not AA. More important, for Myrtle Beach he has put up reasonable numbers (except for the errors)–for someone just promoted to the Carolina League. Then, there is his age and when you factor it is he is playing in a league where most of the players are at least 4 years older. I doubt that the Braves are unhappy with his progress.

    Campbell is struggling a bit–batting .192 is not good–even if you have a high walk rate. I believe that Campbell will be at AA this year, but Myrtle Beach is clearly a challenge for him.

  30. 30
    kc Says:

    Stephen, I don’t see the point of having Woodward as well, but I can tell the Braves prefer to have an useless veteran sitting on the bench instead of prospects…just because they are veterans and the “professional bench players”…even though that means they were useless prospects who are even worse than Pena and Prado and Orr…I don’t understand the logic, but that seems to be the logic the Braves are following…

  31. 31
    chris Says:

    what happened to the outfielder we drafted in the fist round last year?

    is he doing ANYTHING?

  32. 32
    Nick Says:

    Just an observation, but doesn’t it seem like Bobby used Pena for pinch-hitting a hell of a lot more than he’s used Salty? As in some vs. zero? Although come to think of it, I guess we had Wilson on the team when Pena was our backup catcher, and now we don’t have a potential third catcher. Still, it seems like occasionally you should take the risk. Especially late in ball games (like say the last two innings).

    All this talk of various minor leaguers is making my head spin. I have heard of pretty much all the people being mentioned, but I couldn’t tell you anything about most of them.

    Quite frankly, this whole thing is why I really don’t follow it…at least until there’s a chance they’ll be called up soon. You’ll drive yourself crazy with the “This guy is doing this. This guy isn’t doing that. What’s the deal with this guy?” permutations, when half of them probably won’t even make it to the majors, anyway. Not trying to rain on the parades of everyone who does follow it or anything, just not my cup of tea.

    Of course, I’ve never really understood what the big deal with spring football and recruiting and so forth is, either, which I guess is somewhat similar. I don’t think I could name you a single one of the recruits Tennessee signed this year off the top of my head.

  33. 33
    Stephen Says:

    Chris–Cody Johnson had a disappointing start-but he is very young so it may not be indicative of his future. The rap on him (before the draft) was a hitch in his swing and with some luck the Braves have corrected it. In any case, they do not have much confidence in his abilities as an outfielder because they have moved him to 1B.

    There has been some discussion that the Braves might start him at Danville (because of the strides he has apparently made in the Instructional League and during the Spring), but I would not be surprised to see him in the GCL next year.

    http://www.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?n=Cody%2520Johnson&pos=&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=451080

    Lets hope for the best….

  34. 34
    Dan Says:

    “I think he goes down tomorrow, and stupid Orr stays up.”

    I’d rather Prado go down. Bobby Cox won’t be tempted to keep Kelly Johnson out of the lineup for Pete Orr. The only way Bobby Cox stops sucking time away from Johnson is if Prado and his all-mighty right hand aren’t hanging around.

  35. 35
    Stephen Says:

    Since some in this thread have enquired about the Braves’ pick, it is fun to speculate about who the next big name in the farm system will be. With the draft on the horizon, those who make a living do mock drafts are about online. In some of these Justin Heyward is the player that the Braves take. John Sickels did a profile of him here:

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/

    Personally, I do think the Braves would jump at him at #14, but I doubt that they get the chance.

  36. 36
    Hate King Says:

    Heyward would be nice, but chances are he won’t be available at #14.

  37. 37
    BravesMan Says:

    I think Yunel Escobar’s potential is phenominal.
    He shows good defense skills along with a great eye at the plate. The Braves should keep him, but just like Andy Marte, they will most likely trade him. Just wait, this guy needs to get used to the big leagues. Mark my words, he will be great, if he stays. When Chipper returns, Escobar should replace Kelly Johnson at second base, or Yunel might could play in left field with that rocket arm of his. And, Saltalamacchia should be placed at first base.
    The Braves need to stick with a lineup, quit changing so much. The Braves will make it in the end though. I have faith in this talent-filled team.

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