KC Royals: Alcides Escobar Is Miscast As Leadoff Hitter


The KC Royals offense has crashed during their current four-game losing streak, only scoring five runs in four games. Part of the problem has been leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar, who has fallen back to earth after a strong start to the season.

Escobar opened the season as the Kansas City Royals leadoff hitter, after taking over that lineup position during the 2014 playoffs. As recently as nine days ago, Alcides Escobar had a .331 on base percentage and a .295/.331/.388 triple slash. However, Escobar has collapsed to a .281/.317/.366 line over the last six games after a 5 for 24 slump.

Alcides Escobar looked even worse before Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees, in which he roped three hits in five at bats. Before this recovery, Escobar’s triple slash line had dipped to .270/.308/.358 for an ominous OPS (on base plus slugging) of .666.

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While I don’t think Escobar’s OPS is a sign of the coming apocalypse—nor do I believe Esky is the anti-Christ—he simply isn’t getting the job done as the KC Royals leadoff hitter. Over his career, Alcides Escobar has a .300 OPB and an unacceptable 4.2% walk rate.

That’s not good for a guy whose main job is getting on base.

Now, I don’t expect KC Royals manager Ned Yost to make a move with his lineup anytime soon. The team still ranks 3rd in the American League with 215 runs scored. Alcides Escobar is just coming off a three-hit game. I’m sure Ned believes a little patience will see a return to the team’s early-season success on offense.

I still think Alcides Escobar is miscast as a leadoff hitter.

Ned Yost has gotten a number of accolades for his inspired decision to bat Mike Moustakas second in the lineup. Moose has responded to the move by becoming an almost perfect two-hole hitter, with a .329/.382/.494 slash line and a all-fields hitting approach.

In short, batting second has reinforced Moustakas’ offseason determination to hit the ball where it was pitched.

Perhaps his new lineup position has helped keep Mike Moustakas focused on this goal, rather than reverting to the pull-happy, wanna-be slugger he has been during his four prior seasons. Whether his new position in the lineup contributed to Moose’s breakthrough doesn’t really matter. Moustakas is getting the job done so deserves to remain the KC Royals two-hole hitter.

The same thing can’t be said of Alcides Escobar at the leadoff spot.

Alcides Escobar is still the same guy that hacks at the plate he has been his entire career. In fact, Alcides Escobar’s walk rate has DECLINED to 3.6% from his career walk rate of 4.2%. Indeed, Escobar has posted walk rates of 3.0%, 3.5%, and 3.6% over the last two and a quarter seasons.

It’s as if Escobar has embraced his identity as a hacker and stopped trying to take walks.

If Ned Yost expected Alcides Escobar to become a better leadoff hitter by putting him in the leadoff position, it hasn’t worked. Escobar’s approach at the plate is the same as it has always been.

In the long term, I think the KC Royals offense will be better off if Yost accepts that Escobar is a bottom-of-the-order hitter. You don’t want Alcides Escobar getting the most at-bats on the team, especially when you have solid OBP players like Lorenzo Cain, or Alex Gordon, on the roster.

Next: Royals Losing Streak Caused by More than Bad Pitching