Yunel Escobar: The Toronto Blue Jays' 2nd Most Valuable Player
There has been quite a bit written about the trade that brought Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays, and how he has fit in since he arrived with the team. There hasn't, on the other hand, been a lot written about just how valuable he has been to the team this year and how good he has been compared to other shortstops.
For Blue Jays players that have been in 50 games or more, Escobar is second in several offensive categories. He has an impressive 71 runs (tied for third among AL shortstops), which is of course assisted by hitting leadoff—two spots before Jose Bautista—but also by his .361 OBP. Escobar is second on the team in walks with 55, which is tied with Troy Tulowitzki for best in the Majors among shortstops.
His .284 AVG is again second on the team with those with over 50 games, which ranks him at third best in the American League for shortstops. In Total Bases, Escobar has 195 which is six more than third place Adam Lind, which also puts him in the top five of AL shortstops.
Finally, he is first on the team in hits, five more than Blue Jays' fans vote for MVP, Jose Bautista himself.
There are also the less traditional categories that Escobar excels in, like his 4.0 rating in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He cannot quite compete with Tulowitzki's 6.4 or Bautista's MLB-best 7.9, but it is still strong enough for fifth among Major League shortstops.
His fielding statistically is around the middle of the pack among shortstops, but as he continues to get a bit older and more comfortable in Toronto, that should improve. But watching him consistently, you can see the great defensive work he is doing. Escobar makes what would be difficult plays for many seem rather routine, and with his strong arm he can make the throw from almost anywhere. Escobar wants to be among the best at his position, and he is working hard to get there.
His bat is already one of the best and most consistent on the Blue Jays roster, and his defense is a solidifying presence in the infield.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos signed Escobar to a two-year contract extension in 2011 for a total of $10 million, with $5 million club options for 2014 and 2015. This makes Escobar part of the Blue Jays' core going forward, and could be a bargain contract if he continues at his current rate or perhaps even gets better.
There could be some argument that Ricky Romero could be the second most valuable player on the Jays, with his 13 wins and 2.84 ERA in 187 innings pitched.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays offense ranks fourth-best in the American League, and Bautista had a lot of help from his shortstop. Escobar deserves to be ranked among the top MLB shortstops and is a crucial part of this Blue Jays team going forward.
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