To say that Alcides Escobar was abysmal at the plate last year would be an understatement. A year after he set career highs in virtually every offensive category, Escobar hit at a woeful .234/.259/.300 rate, ranking last amongst all shortstops in OPS. His glove, which earned Escobar a nomination for the Gold Glove Award, was truly the main reason that he found himself in the lineup.
There may be a reason for optimism that Escobar will be able to correct his offensive woes. Reviewing last season, Escobar came to the realization that he was swinging at pitches too early in the count, and that his aggressiveness was a major problem.
“Sometimes I get impatient and I get too quick and swing at too many pitches out of the strike zone,” Escobar said.
Statistically, this aggressive approach bears out. Of the 17 shortstops that qualified for the batting title last year, Alcides Escobar ranked 15th in pitches seen per plate appearance, at 3.50. Although his 2012 mark of 3.74 pitches per at bat is not that much higher, it ranked sixth out of the 16 shortstops that qualified for the batting title that season. Even though the difference is approximately one pitch per game, that could still make a big difference, especially if Escobar is more patient to start the season.
If Escobar is able to start laying off pitches out of the zone and stops getting himself out, he could potentially get back to being the player that he was in 2012. Pitchers would have to actually throw strikes to Escobar, and while he is not a threat to hit for any type of power, it could result in Escobar hitting singles and doubles. Once on base, he could pair with Norichika Aoki to give the Royals two legitimate speed threats in the lineup, essentially giving them two leadoff hitters.
Last season, despite his troubles getting on bases, Alcides Escobar was a perfect 22 for 22 in stolen base attempts. Having Aoki and Omar Infante projected to hit behind him when the top of the order comes around, Escobar could give the Royals more chances to implement their plan to put pressure on opposing defenses. Of course, this all comes back to Escobar. If he is able to make the adjustments that he knows he needs to make at the plate, then Escobar could end up being the player that the Royals need him to be at the bottom of the lineup.
Alcides Escobar knows what he needs to do in order to get back to the production level he had in 2012. Now, it is just a matter of seeing if he can implement those changes.