Aug 31, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstopYunel Escobar
(11) throws the ball for a double play against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
4. Yunel Escobar (Washington Nationals)
Even though the Nationals had the third most runs in all of baseball last season, one of their weakest positions on the diamond was second base. Despite trading for Asdrubal Cabrera mid-season, Washington’s second baseman hit a collective .238 a season ago (23rd in the league).
With Danny Espinosa hitting .158 in 2013 and .219 in 2014, GM Mike Rizzo went out and upgraded at the position by trading for Rays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar. Even though it cost them Tyler Clippard in the process. If all things hold to form, Escobar will likely start at second base for the Nats, the first time he has played that position since 2007.
After having a WAR of 3.3 in 2013, Escobar’s WAR dropped to -0.3 in 2014. As far as his fielding goes, he had 10+ errors at shortstop in three of his last four seasons, so maybe a move to second isn’t the worst thing for the 32-year-old who made three errors in 21 games with the Braves.
The Nationals are hoping that Escobar can turn into the hitter he was in his first four years with the Braves when he hit .291. Escobar does know how to get on-base when you consider that last season, he was tied for fifth among all shortstops with a .324 on-base percentage. In his five years with the Blue Jays and Rays, Escobar has a .OBP of .332.
According to Fangraphs, Escobar’s WAR should drastically improve up to two and is projected to increase his average to .271, which would be his highest in 2011. Escobar isn’t a flashy player at this stage of his career, but if he can avoid being a problem in the clubhouse and off-the-field, he can contribute to an offense that is already one of the best in the National League.
Next: Number Three?