Even as the Kansas City Royals are on the rise, one position continues to slump year in and year out. It seems no matter who's manning the shortstop position, the Royals can't find a long-term answer up the middle. That's frustrating since this year's attempt to resolve the problem, Alcides Escobar, is only adding his name to a long and unimpressive list.
It's been several years (14 in fact) since Jay Bell slugged 21 home runs and drove in 92 runs in 1997. Since then, forgettable names like Angel Berroa, Tony Pena, Jr., Neifi Perez, Esteban German, Alberto Callaspo, Mendy Lopez, Rey Sanchez and Yuniesky Betancourt have all taken turns starting at shortstop -- each one enduring their own struggles to hit above .230 or slug above .350. Escobar came over in the Zack Greinke trade from the Milwaukee Brewers and was among the Brewers top prospects over the last few years. Now 24, the great potential is still there with top-flight defense and speed.
Yet the struggles are hard to ignore. Thus far, Escobar is hitting .227/.259/.273 for an abysmal .532 OPS -- a ridiculous rate even for a Royals shortstop. While it's hardly a historic low -- baseball history is littered with full season totals resembling this from Ozzie Smith, Dick Schofield, Hal Lanier, Cezar Izturis, Larry Bowa and Alfredo Griffin -- it's still clear that help is needed. Despite the low totals, however, ESPN's Jason Churchill reports that no change is planned on the part of KC manager Ned Yost. In fact, given the potential, he writes the Royals are committed to Escobar's continued development:
The Kansas City Royals are sticking with Alcides Escobar at shortstop despite his struggles at the plate, reports the Kansas City Star. Skipper Ned Yost admits that the club has combined winning mode with development mode and since Escobar is a part of the club's future he is going to stay in there even though he's hitting .227 with no power.
While the Royals recently drafted Christian Colon, many scouts feel he profiles more as a second baseman than shortstop, so the Royals are hoping Escobar pulls through the slump and at least provides a league-average bat at the position. If he can, that will be a major step forward at what has been a void in the Royals line-up for years.