Tampa Bay Rays Season Preview: Yunel Escobar

Yunel Escobar Looks To Provide Many More Highlights In 2014

Yunel Escobar came to the Rays with baggage and question marks about his character. The 2013 season was an uplifting year in terms of production on the field and also served to eliminate the false perception that surrounded him as a person.

2013 Recap:

Played in a career high 153 games.

Led all major league shortstops in fielding percentage (.989) committing only 7 errors in 610 chances.  His fielding percentage of .989 was also a franchise best for shortstops.  Of his seven errors only three were committed over the final 108 games.

The keystone combination between himself and Ben Zobrist combined to commit only 11 errors tying them with Bill and Cal Ripken (Orioles 1990) and Mark Loretta and Alex Gonzalez (2006 Red Sox) for fewest in Major League history.

His season was marred by a poor start (4 for 45) and a slow finish (5 for 36) but in-between he hit .283 (121 for 427).

Overall he finished the season hitting .256/.332/.366 with a wOBA of .311 and a wRC+ of 100. Fangraphs.com credited him with a 3.8 fWAR which ranked first among all American League shortstops.

2014 Projections:

There are several mathematical projection models and several have including Pecota, ZiPs, Oliver, & Steamer are provided in the table below. Fangraphs sabermetric library goes into more detail on the different systems (LINK).

Pecota was developed by Nat Silver and is released via Baseball Prospectus and is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. 

Oliver was created by Brian Cartwright and is available at The Hardball Times. It’s a comparatively simple projection system – using weighted averages of the past three seasons of data, and adjusting for aging and regression

ZiPS was created by Dan Szymborski and is available at the Baseball Think Factory. The ZiPS projections uses weighted averages of four years of data (three if a player is very old or very young).

Steamer projections were created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom and are available at Steamerprojections.com.

 Escobar_Projections

The Rays can expect another solid defensive season at shortstop and a very consistent contact hitter at the plate who through good plate discipline will have a higher than league average on-base percentage.

Last 3 Years:

Many of the projection models use the data from the past three seasons in their forecast.

Yunel_3yr

Splits:

Many players are better in one role or another. When a player has a significant gap against either right handed pitchers or left handed pitchers he usually will find himself in a platoon role. With his spectacular defense at a premium position he will not find himself in a platoon role. A look at his splits could serve more as an indicator of where he could bat in the Rays lineup. Against a LH starter he may slot higher up in the order while against a RH starter he may find himself batting at the bottom of the lineup.

YunelTotals_3yr

Personal Notes:

Fled Cuba by sea and landed in the Florida Keys in 2004.

His best friend is catcher Brayan Pena who signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds making Ryan Hanigan available in trade to the Rays.

For an excellent account of the relationship between Brayan Pena and Escobar and how each took different routes in escaping Cuba please read Brave Hearts (LINK) written by Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Segura.

Video: 

A nifty behind the back feed to Ben Zobrist to start a double play against the Red Sox.

After Enny Romero deflects a ball Escobar grabs and starts double play thanks to great glove work by James Loney at first base.

Shows off his range and his arm to nail Angels catcher Chris Ianetta.

Walk-off single to defeat Detroit Tigers in 10 innings.

Shows Off Range on foul pop fly.

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