Tagged: Rafael Furcal

Runner up

We have all engaged in the discussion of who are the best players at their respective positions. When discussing the position of shortstop I think the obvious answer is Hanley Ramirez. He does it all. He hits for average as well as power. He drives in runs and steals bases. He even plays good defense. He is easily the best shortstop in the game. But who is number two? I’m going to make the case for Yunel Escobar of the Atlanta Braves.

Yunel EscobarEscobar plays solid defense but where he really shines is at the plate. Escobar has improved his contact hitting this year by sporting the 6th best .305 average. He has also shown he can provide the long ball with his 3rd best 11 home runs and drive in runs with his 58 RBI which also rank 3rd. The power numbers aren’t a product of a free swinger either. Escobar has shown excellent bat control and advanced plate discipline. He strikes out just 10.6% of the time which is only beaten by Orlando Cabrera (9.4%) and Miguel Tejada (7.6%). He is also the owner of the 3rd best SO/BB ratio with 0.80.

Escobar ranks 5th in OBP (.370), 5th in SLG (.471), 5th in OPS (.841), 7th in WAR (2.5), 7th in RC (55.8) and 4th in clutch factor (0.49). Escobar is in the top 10 in some of the most important statistics. He is among the best hitting shortstops as well as the most valuable to his respective team.

Yunel EscobarHe has a respectable 4.3 Range Factor when you look at the defensive aspect of his game. One thing that isn’t shown in a statistic is his strong arm. Many Braves fans were spoiled when Rafael Furcal would rifle throws across the field. Escobar’s arm is just as good if not better.

There are a handful of shortstops that have a legitimate shot at being the runner up to Hanley Ramirez at the position. Yunel Escobar has a pretty good argument.

What could have been

Have you ever found yourself watching a baseball game or even Baseball Tonight and see one of your team’s former players and think to yourself “What could have been if we held onto him?” I do it on almost a daily basis. I decided to put together a team of former Atlanta Braves. Almost all have been developed by Atlanta but a few were acquired by trade and for one reason or another allowed to move on.

One former catcher is Texas Rangers starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Salty” is currently hitting .250 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 64 games for Texas. Another catcher is Kansas City Royal Brayan Pena. Pena is currently hitting .319 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in 22 games for the Royals. Both Salty and Pena are switch hitters.

Jarrod SaltalamacchiaAt first base you have a former fan favorite in Adam LaRoche. He is currently hitting .259 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At second base you have that Mark DeRosa guy. You may have heard about him being amazing at a handful of positions. You’re welcome St. Louis. Atlanta fans have been crying about letting him go for years now. DeRosa is currently hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI.

Elvis AndrusShortstop is what really gets me mad. You have studs like Rafael Furcal (.254, 3 HR, 19 RBI) playing for the Dodgers and Elvis Andrus (.262, 3 HR, 15 RBI) playing for the Texas Rangers. Texas thought so much of Andrus that they made Michael Young (5-time All-Star, 2005 AL Batting Champ, 2008 Gold Glove winner) change positions to third base. At third base you have current Tampa Bay Ray Willy Aybar. He is currently hitting .279 with 7 home runs and 25 RBI. Atlanta had plans for Aybar before he had issues with substance abuse. It’s such a shame to see someone with so much talent get moved around like he has been.

Moving to the outfield you will see current White Sox star Jermaine Dye. Dye is hitting .297 with 20 home runs and 54 RBI. He would be great in the current Atlanta offense that is starved for power. Another former Brave is Andruw Jones who is currently having a solid season with the Texas Rangers. He is only hitting .250 but has 14 home runs and 34 RBI. Two former outfielders who were acquired by trade and then allowed to move on are Gary Sheffield (.277, 10 HR, 31 RBI) and J.D. Drew (.260, 12 HR, 37 RBI).

When you get to the list of pitchers it can really get ugly for Braves fans. A rotation could consist of Jason Marquis (11-5, 3.61), Kevin Millwood (8-6, 3.34), and Adam Wainwright (9-5, 3.09). Not to mention John Smoltz of the Boston Red Sox. The bullpen could have Joey Devine (0.59, 11 Holds) at the end of games.

Losing players in trades or to free agency is part of baseball. But it’s always nice to wonder, what could have been?

You don’t know what ya got till it’s gone,