There was a point earlier in Alcides Escobar's career when the potential for 30-plus steals and an above-average batting average made him a desirable middle-infield filler in mixers and a steady shortstop in AL-only formats. At that time, he was an elite defender, whose ability to pile up a high volume of plate appearances enabled him to yield passable counting stats. While his glove is still very good, Escobar's bat has been among the worst of any big-league regular over the past three seasons. He hasn't eclipsed 20 steals in a season since 2014 -- even with the benefit of an aggressive manager -- thanks in large part to three consecutive seasons with a sub-.300 OBP. In a surprising move, the rebuilding Royals brought Escobar back on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Even more surprising is the fact that general manager Dayton Moore stated that Escobar will be the team's starting shortstop on Opening Day. Look for Raul Mondesi to push him for playing time if Escobar is as bad as he has been the last two seasons.
Escobar, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Royals on Friday, will open the year as the team's starting shortstop, 610 Sports Radio reports. This was a very odd transaction for a rebuilding club, and the decision to block the team's best young position player in Raul Mondesi is even more perplexing. Escobar is an excellent defensive shortstop, but his 62 wRC+ was tied for second worst among qualified position players in 2017. He didn't even help fantasy owners on the bases last season, stealing just four bags after reaching double digits in that category in each of the previous seven seasons. Mondesi will reportedly compete at second base in spring training, but unless the Royals trade Whit Merrifield or move him to third base, it seems likely that Mondesi will return to Triple-A at the start of his age-22 season. Assuming Escobar is as bad as he was the past two seasons, Mondesi could still displace him at shortstop fairly quickly.
Escobar has a agreed to return to the Royals on an unspecified deal, Robert Murray of FanRagSports.com reports. Escobar has been worth 0.5 fWAR in each of the past two seasons, providing excellent defense while being one of the worst hitters in baseball. It sounds like this is a guaranteed big-league deal, but look for Escobar to be used as a bench infielder, with Raul Mondesi ready to take over as the everyday shortstop in 2018.
Escobar went 2-for-4 with an RBI in Wednesday's loss to the White Sox. The 10th-year shortstop remains on pace to play in all 162 games this season, which would give him three such campaigns in four years. For the most part, volume is what keeps Escobar on the fantasy radar in mixed leagues, but his recent play is worth noting. Through 42 at-bats this month, he's hitting a ridiculous .428 with eight extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple and a homer), six RBI, nine runs and just two strikeouts. That said, regardless of format, owners scouring for shortstop help down the stretch should scoop up Escobar if he's still available.
Escobar went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple, an RBI and two runs against the Tigers on Wednesday. He fell just a homer short of the cycle while building up his ongoing hot streak -- over the last eight games, Escobar's gone 11-for-25 (.440) with four extra-base knocks. In fact, he's been running relatively hot for nearly a month, but that hasn't been enough to bring his season stats up to the point of respectability, as Escobar is still largely scuffling through one of his worst MLB campaigns.
Escobar went 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run during Sunday's win over the Indians. The sure-handed shortstop is finally finding his way at the plate as the season's home stretch approaches. Escobar is riding an 11-game hitting streak, going 18-for-42 (.429) with 11 runs since Aug. 9. His .239 average sits at its highest point since April 16, and the 30-year-old's recent efforts make him worthy of consideration in deep formats, at least until he cools off.