Alcides Escobar Should Not be the Royals Leadoff Hitter


There are certain things that teams look for in a leadoff hitter. Perhaps the biggest part of their game involves an ability to get on base. After all, it’s easier to score runs with a runner on base. Having solid bat control and excellent speed are certainly factors as well, but that primary ability to get on base may be the most important.

As the Royals offense last season was built upon the concept of putting runners on base and putting pressure on the opposing defense, it would make sense that the Royals would have this type of hitter atop their lineup. Instead, Ned Yost is considering making Alcides Escobar the Royals primary leadoff hitter in 2015, just as he was towards the end of last season and into the postseason.

Escobar certainly had success in that spot in the lineup, as he produced a .362/.397/.478 batting line as the Royals leadoff hitter. However, there is the small sample size caveat, as Escobar had only 73 plate appearances in that role. It is highly unlikely that Escobar can replicate that performance, but can he produce a reasonable on base percentage from the leadoff spot, utilizing his speed to terrorize opposing catchers?

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  • That would also seem to be rather unlikely. Over his career, Alcides Escobar has not exactly been known for his patience, walking in a mere 4.2% of his 3198 plate appearances. That mark is actually higher than the walk rate Escobar had last season, when he walked in 3.7% of his plate appearances. As a leadoff hitter, Escobar walked 4.1% of the time, not enough to truly consider him a real on base threat.

    Of course, if Escobar is hitting, then the walks are not as important of a factor. That, however, is not a given, as his .287/.317/.377 batting line was the second best of his career in a full season. Those statistics were inflated by a .326 batting average on balls in play, also the second highest mark of his career.

    Given his speed, it is a bit surprising that Alcides Escobar would not have a higher BABiP. He does well at putting the ball into play, doing so in 79% of his career plate appearances, ten percent higher than league average. Yet, while he has a solid line drive rate at 21.8% over his career, and 24.2% last season, he still hit far more balls into the air than one would like to see. In fact, Escobar is rather prone to infield popups, with 10.6% of his career at bats ending in an infield fly.

    Escobar, when he is hitting the ball well, can be useful as a leadoff hitter, as he proved last year. Yet, he is not likely to put together the type of consistency needed as an everyday leadoff batter. For those two or three weeks, maybe even a month or so, Escobar can be that player.

    Alcides Escobar certainly has a role in the lineup. He just should not be the leadoff hitter every day.