Former Voyager Eduardo Escobar Likely to Make White Sox Roster
Like many other teams, the White Sox have had a robust contest this spring to determine which player will earn the last bench spot on the 25-man roster with the big league club. Obviously, the prize here is great: the winner lives the life in the show and the losers are shipped off to Charlotte to play in AAA. This year’s contest involved several players that didn’t come from the White Sox farm system (like former Athletic Dan Johnson), a couple guys who never came through Great Falls (like Jordan Danks and Tyler Saladino), and two guys Voyagers fans should remember: Jim Gallagher and Eduardo Escobar. Yesterday, everybody on that list except for Escobar was cut from major league camp and reassigned to the minor league club. Barring any last minute acquisition – always possible at the end of spring – Escobar seems to have won a spot on the opening day roster of the Sox.
Escobar was with the Voyagers during a year fans should well remember – the championship run of 2008. Escobar though wasn’t with the team when it defeated Orem in the decision game 3 of the Pioneer League Championship Series. Escobar, in fact, wasn’t with the team for very long at all, but he still made his mark on Pioneer League pitchers all the same.
Escobar played came to Great Falls at the age of 19 and in his second year in the White Sox organization. It was his first exposure to American baseball – his first two years in the system were spent in the Venezuelan and Dominican summer leagues. In just 6 games, Escobar managed to collect 10 hits in his 28 at bats, including a home run, a triple, and two doubles. That added up to a .417 batting average and an obscene .708 slugging percentage. For comparison, Albert Pujols’s career slugging percentage is .617. That one short hot streak was enough for the White Sox to push Escobar up to Kannapolis, where he finished the season and spent the entirety of the next. While Escobar never was a big bat at a higher level than Great Falls, his slick, flexible fielding – he plays every infield position – and respectable bat skills allowed him to keep moving up the ladder until he got a major league cup of coffee last season as a September call-up. Aged 22, he played in 7 major league games during his 2011 debut.
To beat out the strong group of bench options Escobar did, he needed a strong spring. His bat delivered, as he collected 16 hits in 38 at bats, along with 1 home run and 6 RBI. He also only struck out twice, an important improvement for Escobar after striking out quite a lot in the minors (he’s averaged a bit over 100 K’s in the minors over the last 3 years, which is more what you’d expect from a big-swinging slugger, not a contact hitting infielder.)The hot streak was apparently enough to convince GM Kenny Williams that he should win the final spot with the big club. New manager Robin Ventura should be appreciative: Escobar’s ability to play SS, 3B, and 2B at above average levels, combined with his swift food-speed, will give the new skipper plenty of extra defensive and baserunning flexibility late in games. Escobar can also be used to rest starters like SS Alexei Ramirez and 2B Gordon Beckham.
Escobar will have a new challenge staying on the roster – he’ll have relatively limited chances to prove his use and will have to take full advantage of them – but he’s cleared the biggest hurdle by putting himself at the head of the pack. At age 23, he’s already trusted to be a solid utility man by a major league club and can still continue to grow as he learns from major league players. I’ll keep an eye on his as his season in the bigs develops and make sure to update readers on his progress!
Next Couple Days: Over the next couple of days, I’ll take another look at some of the offseason moves and shifts among Voyagers in White Sox camp, and on Friday, we’ll have our first issue of the special friday feature.