While Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg may be receiving more notoriety entering this season, the Brewers have their own super prospect in Alcides Escobar.
Heyward and Strasburg will get all the national press and be touted as the next big things, but Escobar is the one that could very easily win the NL Rookie of the Year and amaze fans around the league this year.
Escobar has been compared defensively to fellow Venezuelan great, Omar Vizquel. He has the speed and range to get to any ball hit in the hole, and his arm is as strong as any shortstop in baseball.
The Brewers were so confident in Escobar's abilities that they traded JJ Hardy to the Twins over the winter. Truth be told, Escobar's defense has been ready for the majors for a couple years. He just needed to improve at the plate in order to be given the job.
Escobar showed his offense caught up to his defense when given the opportunity last year. In 38 games, he hit .304 with 38 hits and 20 runs scored.
While he only stole four bases, speed is a major part of his game. In 647 career minor league games, Escobar stole 176 bases. It's unknown if manager Ken Macha will let him showcase his speed. He's expected to hit Escobar eighth or ninth, and he may not be allowed to run as much as everyone hopes for.
If spring training can be used as a base for what may happen in the regular season, Escobar will have an outstanding season. In 10 games so far, he's hitting .406, has an on-base percentage of .412, and is slugging .594. He has nine RBI and four extra-base hits.
He could eventually add power to his game, but for now his power comes in the form of doubles and triples. The 23-year-old has a frame that could add muscle, but doing so may take away from his speed game. Fans should be content for a lot of doubles and double-digit triples.
The one aspect of his game that needs the most work is his plate discipline. Escobar walked only four times with the Brewers last season and just once this spring. If he can limit his strikeouts and improve his walk rate, he could very quickly slot himself behind Hanley Ramirez as the best shortstop in the National League.
Should he learn to get on base more, he could eventually replace Rickie Weeks at the top of the order and move Weeks down into more of a run-producing spot in the lineup. That move is still a year or two away, but the foundation for such a swap will begin this year.
It's dangerous to make a prediction for such a young player like Escobar. He could just as easily hit .300 and win a Gold Glove as he could hit .220 and make 30 errors in the field.
Based on his continued improvement in the minors and his success in Milwaukee, expect his numbers to be closer to the former and not the latter. Fans should expect around a .280 average with at least 40 extra-base hits. Add in countless spectacular plays in the field, and it's easy to see Escobar being a front-runner in the rookie class.
The Brewers have seen a ton of young talent take the field over the past few seasons. Players like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have established themselves as superstars, while others like Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks have struggled with injuries and inconsistency.
Alcides Escobar may never put up the power numbers of Braun or Fielder, but that doesn't mean he won't be just as valuable as the current faces of the franchise. He will bring an excitement to the team that fans haven't seen in Milwaukee for a very long time.
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