Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How valuable is Eduardo Escobar?

When the Twins traded Francisco Liriano to the Chicago White Sox last July, it seemed like the club was getting a bag of balls and some chewing gum in return. There wasn't much to get excited about with names like Pedro Hernadez and Eduardo Escobar. Flashforward a couple of months later and it is starting to look more and more like the Twins got some servicable players.

Escobar has built himself a nice little niche in the Twins clubhouse. Manager Ron Gardenhire uses him as a late inning defensive replacement a couple of times a week and he also makes his way into the starting line-up on occasion. In small doses, he has been very good for the team this year.

In fact, it seems like Escobar has been the thorn in the side of Minnesota's opponents. This season he is hitting .438/.455/.625 with a home run, a triple, and a double in 32 at-bats. His six runs scored rank higher than two current regular starters, Chris Parmelee and Pedro Florimon.

The switch-hitting middle infielder is finding ways to hit for average and power from both sides of the plate. As a left-handed batter, he is slugging .636 and when he switches to the other side that number stays at .600. His career OPS is only .639 so it has been a very good start to the year.

The Twins seem to be getting the best out of Mr. Escobar. Which brings up the question, how valuable is Eduardo Escobar?

According to FanGraphs, Escobar has been the second most valuable Twins player in 2013. Since he is still pre-arbitration eligible, the club is paying him $520,000 this year. His value according to FanGraphs has been $3.1 million and only Joe Mauer has been worth more at $3.8 million.

There are also some other interesting numbers from FanGraphs. Escobar has been the second most valuable offensive player with Josh Willingham being ranked ahead of him. Escobar's solid defense makes him more valuable in the field so his WAR ranking is second to Mauer.

By looking to the other reputable online baseball database, Baseball Reference, Escobar is also doing well there. Only Mauer and Willingham have higher WAR marks and his offense WAR ranks right behind both of these everyday players. His Win Probabilty Added ranks sixth in the American League. This puts him ahead of perennial MVP candidates like Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera.

It seems strange to talk about Escobar in the same breath as Mauer, Willingham, Cabrera, and Cano. For the most part, it is comical to think of the scrappy infielder in the same light as these great hitters. Compared to his Twins counterparts, he has less than a third of the amount of plate appearances as Mauer and less than half of what Willingham has strung together.

A small sample size can do wonders for Escobar and his value to the team. His numbers might look promising at this point in the season but things could come back down to earth in a hurry if he got more playing time.

Minnesota seems to have found the best way to get the most value out of Escobar. The team can only hope that his value continues to increase as the season progresses.

It turns out that he might have been worth more than a bag of balls and some chewing gum after all...

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