Latest roster cuts are good news for Escobar

Eduardo Escobar

This morning, the White Sox re-assigned 1B Dan Johnson, 3B Dallas McPherson, C Josh Phegley, OF Jordan Danks, SS Tyler Saladino and 1B Jim Gallagher to minor league camp. While SS Ray Olmedo remains in big league camp, he is not considered a serious candidate for the opening day roster. Barring an injury or something else unexpected, SS Eduardo Escobar appears to have secured the final bench spot.

Escobar has been impressive offensively this spring. He is 16 for 34, with a pair of doubles and a home run, tallying to an eye-catching .471/.471/.618 line. While he obviously has not taken a walk, he also has struck out only once (an important thing for a light hitter with a history of too many strikeouts). Somewhat less impressive has been his base-stealing, in which the 23 year old Venezuelan is 3 for 5. His defense has been its usual flashy but, as I mentioned in my Top 10 White Sox Prospects write-up, he continues to be occasionally inaccurate with his throws.

As is obvious, that offensive line from Escobar is unsustainable. Jim detailed a few days ago how Escobar is "king of the short season" and he's continued to live up to that reputation. And while his spring certainly merits serious consideration for a roster spot, it's hard to see how Robin Ventura plans to use Escobar, given the likely roster construction.

Escobar is an excellent defensive infielder, with the ability to play SS, 2B and 3B. Alexei Ramirez is also an excellent shortstop and infrequently takes a day off, evident in him playing 1382 of the 1460 innings played by White Sox shortstops in 2011. So Escobar is unlikely to be seeing much action at shortstop.

Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel are both plus defenders at their positions, so Escobar isn't going to see much action as a late-inning defensive replacement. Escobar also has no experience playing third base, outside of 26.1 innings during this year's spring training. Neither Beckham nor Morel have the major league track record of a good offensive player. But Escobar doesn't have any track record anywhere (outside of short seasons) of being a good offensive player - his career MiLB line is .270/.315/.351. While Escobar is a switch-hitter, and Ventura with a straight face could say he's replacing the right-handed bat of Beckham or Morel with a lefty, a left-handed Escobar isn't much (if any) of an upgrade.

Escobar does have good speed so he does have some use as a late-inning pinch runner. He doesn't steal bases particularly well (his spring line isn't an aberration) but he'd be an obvious upgrade over an Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko when the ball is in play. But with Brent Lillibridge, at least an equally good baserunner as Escobar, already on the roster, Escobar looks like he'd be second choice for most pinch-running opportunities - particularly given Lillibridge's ability to play nearly every defensive position. Assuming Lillibridge will be seeing significant playing time as a starter, though, Escobar would move up to first choice in those games.

The last bench spot usually doesn't get much playing time and that certainly looks like it will be the case for Escobar. It looks like he's destined for a start a month at shortstop and the occasional pinch running opportunity. He does offer an in-house alternative to Beckham and Morel if they struggle. But he would have been just a phone call and a plane flight away if he had started in the minors. Escobar would definitely have benefited from further seasoning at Charlotte and, while he's no superstar in the making, the infrequent and inconsistent playing time it looks like he'll be seeing with the big league club likely will stunt his development, particularly on offense. How infrequent his playing time is likely will depend upon how well Beckham and Morel play. Escobar's primary purpose on the roster may be to be a daily reminder to those players that their possible replacement is already in the locker room.

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