This weekend, Zack Greinke was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers (along with Yuniesky Betancourt) for a bounty of four players. The fantasy impact on Greinke’s move to Beer Town USA was covered here, but what about those four youngsters headed to Kansas City?
Alcides Escobar - SS
Escobar was surrounded with some preseason fantasy sleeper hype heading into 2010. He had 46 combined stolen bases in 2009 between Triple-A and the majors and hit .299 overall. However, Escobar didn’t steal many bases (only 10 on the year) or hit for AVG (.235) last season. The lack of stolen bases can somewhat be attributed to former manager, Ken Macha. Macha did give many green lights to his speedsters, resulting in career lows in stolen bases for several players (i.e. Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart). The Brewers ranked 21st in baseball in the stolen base category in 2010. It is very likely that Escobar will steal more bases in Kansas City given that the Royals finished last season with the eighth most stolen bases in baseball.
Escobar was 10 for 14 (71 percent), which is not great, but not exceptionally poor either. His success rate was 79 percent in 2009. If he attempts 50 steals in 2011, he’d easily steal 30-plus with a chance to push 40.
The boost in stolen bases should be nice, but they won’t mean much if he can’t improve upon his .235 AVG. In 2010, Escobar suffered from a .264 BABIP. Given his line-drive/speed skill set, Escobar is the type of player that can actually sustain higher than normal BABIP’s if he continues to hit line-drives. His 21.5 percent line-drive rate in 2010 was good, but 34.2 percent of his balls in play were classified as fly balls and, even worse, 14.2 percent of his balls in play were considered pop-ups or infield fly balls. Combine those two fly ball rates and Escobar put 48.4 percent of his balls in play in the air. Given his lack of power, when Escobar hits the ball in the air, his chances of getting a base hit are lowered. Unless he decreases his fly ball totals, Escobar will struggle to hit for much AVG at the big league level.
One thing he does have going for him in 2011 is the change of leagues. Hitting eighth for a good portion of the year in Milwaukee, opposing pitchers were able to take advantage of his below average walk rate. They were able to pitch outside the strike-zone knowing that the pitcher would be coming up next. In the American League, Escobar won’t have that problem. Escobar swung at pitches outside the strike-zone 32.2 percent of the time in 2010, which is another aspect of his game that needs to improve.
While Escobar should provide more value in 2011 than he did in his rookie season, there is no way to bank on a drastic improvement in AVG given the changes he must make at the plate. Assuming the Royals don’t hold him back like Ken “red light” Macha did, 30-plus stolen bases should be possible. Based on that stolen base potential, Escobar should be worth a look very late in drafts in 2011. If he manages to go undrafted in some leagues, he’ll be a name to keep on your watch list, just in case he finds a way to lower his fly ball rate and improve his AVG.
Lorenzo Cain – OF
After hitting .324 and .299 in limited at-bats at Double and Triple-A, Lorenzo Cain found his way to Milwaukee, where he continued to hit. His .306 AVG in 147 big league at-bats looks good, but it also comes via a small sample size and a highly inflated .370 BABIP. Like Escobar, speed is one of Cain’s best attributes, so he could have some high BABIP’s in his career. However, Cain didn’t hit an abnormal amount of line drives in 2010 or limit his fly balls. Those factors make his BABIP look very much like a fluke. Cain has a minor league career line of .291/.366/.416, which doesn’t exactly scream “star potential”.
Cain stole 34 total bases in 2010 between Double-A, Triple-A and MLB and he has shown 30 stolen base potential throughout his time in the minors. While 30 stolen base potential is nice, it doesn’t go too far for an outfielder in 12-team mixed leagues without a good AVG and runs scored total. Could Cain hit .290-plus? I think so, with a little luck, but there is no way of projecting that to happen.
25 years old in April, Cain isn’t exactly a young up-and-coming prospect anymore. While he should play good defense in center field and provide decent fantasy value in deeper leagues with 25-30 stolen bases, there is a lack of any sort of power output or breakout potential here.
Jake Odorizzi – SP
Only 21 by opening day 2011 and having not pitched past A-ball, Odorizzi has a long way to go before realizing his ultimate potential. Still, his numbers have been impressive. He has a career 3.4 K/BB rate so far in his professional career and has earned praise by prospect guru’s for his good command and plus breaking ball. Leagues that stash minor leaguers will want to keep their eye on Odorizzi this season, as he could face his first advanced level competition at some point. While his ceiling doesn’t seem to be ace level, most think that Odorizzi will turn into a solid mid-rotation arm capable of some sub 4.00 ERA seasons and good strikeout numbers.