(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)
Alcides Escobar is going to go as far as his legs can take him in 2013. His entire fantasy value is based on his speed, including how he gets on base and what he does once he's there. Escobar had 26 SB in 2011, and increased that number to 35 SB in 2012, with a terrific success rate of 88%. In 2012 he had 177 hits, including 24 infield hits, good for 9th in total infield hits behind the likes of speed demons Elvis Andrus, Ichiro, and Ben Revere. RotoBaller says this is a good thing. The more Escobar can get on base, the more valuable he can be for your team. A positive indicator here is that Escobar is really taking advantage of his speed-- he's keeping the ball on the ground, which allows him to beat out grounders for base hits.
Escobar's GB ratio of 53.3% was good for 20th in the league last year, and only 9 other players with more than 400 plate appearances had a fly ball rate lower than the Royals's SS at 23.7%. If you’re curious, Ben Revere is the true king of both, with an insanely high career 66.9% GB ratio against a ridiculously low 14.5% fly ball ratio. When you add in Alcides's 11 bunt hits to his 24 infield hits, you start to see the bigger picture – keep the ball on the ground and run to first. Once on first, hopefully steal 2nd and 3rd before coming around to score.
Don’t expect much power with Escobar, as he had 5 HR in 2012 and stalled at 4 HR in 2011. A repeat of 5 HR and around 50 RBI in 2013 is a reasonable expectation. But Escobar showed some nice things last year, and has upside to build on that in 2013. At the very thin SS position, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Escobar can offer some nice upside. And per ADP, he's going fairly late in drafts, which makes him an intriguing late-round target on draft day. Last year’s .293 average was aided by a .344 BABIP, which is certainly high, but not unreasonable considering he is keeping the ball on the ground and had a line drive rate near 23%. Expect the BA to decline to the .275-.280 range. Furthermore, hitting in the second spot in the Royals lineup in front in front of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon should afford him the opportunity to score 70-80 runs.
There are certainly some solid shortstops available this year that will probably put up better all-around numbers than Escobar. But he has the potential to hit for a decent BA, steal a bunch of bags, and score a bunch of runs. If you're in a league that has a MI spot, Escobar can slot perfectly in there. He’s going in drafts near Erick Aybar and J.J. Hardy, so you can look for him in the late rounds around 16 or 17 as a cheap option for steals with upside for some more.
RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 8.0
(scores are from 1 – 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)
RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .282/8/47/86/35
RotoBaller’s Target Draft Rounds: Rounds 14+
Alcides “Speed” Escobar. He showed some nice things last year, and has the potential to provide late round draft day value for you at a thin SS position. He will be above average in SB production, and hopefully above average in R and BA, too. If you draft power early, Escobar is someone you can feel comfortable taking late in the SS game. And although he's a drag on HR and RBI, RotoBaller thinks it wouldn't be a terrible idea to take a late flier on him to at the very least increase your SB total, and hope for that R / BA upside to pull through. His draft stock has been rising in recent weeks, so if you're pursuing him, think about puling the trigger sometime around the 14th round-- but not earlier-- to ensure you get the full value Alcides affords.
Be sure to also check out RotoBaller’s full Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings for 2013.