Over the past two years, Eduardo Escobar broke out as a hitter. Acquired (with Pedro Hernandez) for Francisco Liriano late in the 2012 season, he appeared to be nothing more than a light-hitting utility infielder at the time. While that remained true in 2013, he surprised many by putting up a .275/.315/.406 batting line, allowing him to seize the starting shortstop role. Last year, he struggled at the start of the season but utilized a hot streak over four of the remaining five months of the season to finish at .262/.309/.445.
This year, he once again started at shortstop and though his batting average was adequate, his power completely disappeared, a disappointment after having a .183 isolated power and career best 12 home runs the prior season. A groin strain put him on the disabled list in early May and though he continued to play shortstop upon his return, his playing time absolutely disappeared in July thanks to the hot hitting of Eduardo Nunez.
Now that Nunez is a San Francisco Giant, shortstop had been reopened for Escobar until the Twins surprisingly decided that Jorge Polanco should play it again one week into this month. Now it appears that Polanco and Escobar will be in a timeshare up the middle, with Escobar getting chances as Polanco moves around to give days off to Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier.
This season, Escobar has hit just .259/.283/.380 as his walks and power have completely dried up. Thus, he hasn’t disappeared in the sense that he’s not receiving any playing time, but rather that he’s no longer a contributor on offense. It’s been a huge disappointment for a player that was such a key hitter in the bottom of the lineup the past two years.
One main issue is that he has struggled in limited action against lefthanded pitchers when normally he has feasted on them (career .789 OPS). Check out his platoon splits for OPS in his career (2011 excluded because he had only seven plate appearances all season).
Escobar’s hitting hasn’t been out of the ordinary against righties, but he’s struggled to hit the southsiders this season. However, there is hope, mainly in the fact that Escobar has had only 67 plate appearances against lefties this season. He had more than twice as many PA in each of the prior two seasons, so it’s entirely possible that we’re looking at nothing more than a small sample size blip.
Still, I find it interesting that we haven’t heard much about Escobar’s hitting woes. Perhaps there have been so many issues with this season that it’s low on the priority list, or maybe we just didn’t notice because Eduardo Nunez and Jorge Polanco have taken up a good chunk of the shortstop playing time. With talk that Polanco may not have the defensive chops for the position, it’s imperative that Escobar finds his stroke again or else the Twins will once again be looking for a shortstop in 2017.