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.
Escobar 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.
He 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.
It should be interesting to see if the Braves can actually land an impact bat. I think it is pretty clear that without another bat Atlanta’s sickly offense won’t be able to back their strong starting pitching.
I have read that Atlanta has shown interest in Florida’s Jeremy Hermida, but I don’t think that makes much sense. He has been compared to Jeff Francoeur, which I’m sure doesn’t make Atlanta fans very excited. He has more power than Francoeur but doesn’t play as well defensively. People are hard on Francouer’s offense but we often forget that he plays Gold Glove defense year round.
Hermida hits for about the same average but has shown more power with 8 home runs. Francoeur however has driven in more runs. I value runs driven in over home runs, but that’s just me.
I don’t see Atlanta bringing in Matt Holliday as a rental. It would end up being a Mark Teixeira debacle all over again. I would rather Atlanta go for a mid level outfielder such as maybe an Alex Rios over a huge bat such as Holliday. If the Braves can’t bring in a big bat I think Martin Prado has shown as of last night that he can produce. Sure, he isn’t a big bat but he is an upgrade over Kelly Johnson. Atlanta has gotten just about nothing from Johnson so anything from that position could be a huge boost.
Johnson has been inconsistent at best, both offensively and defensively. Prado is quickly proving he can play above average defense as well as hit for a decent average and drive in runs. If he plays anything like he did against the Phillies for the rest of the year the Braves may not need another bat.
Unfortunately as Prado shines when on the field, Yunel Escobar keeps giving the Braves reasons to trade him. It really is unfortunate that someone with so much talent can’t play the game the right way. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Escobar go by the end of the week. He has been arguably the most productive offensive player for the Braves but just can’t seem to see that his behavior both on and off the field doesn’t make up for his production on it. It really is a shame to see a potential superstar waste his career like this.
Till next time,