For the last three years, Alcides Escobar has waited in the shadows of minor league ball for his chance to shine on the big stage. In AAA Nashville this season, he hit for a .298 average while stealing 42 bases and scoring 76 runs in 109 games for the Sounds.
When J.J. Hardy was designated for assignment on Wednesday of this week, Escobar was given his chance to sign with a call-up from the Brewers.
Hardy struggled throughout the majoirty of the year and could not break out a slump that saw him hit just .229 with 11 home runs.
Escobar did not make it to Miller Park in time for the start of the Brewers’ contest against the San Diego Padres Wednesday night, but once he got there he made his presence felt.
With his team down by one in the bottom half of the ninth inning, Escobar pinch-ran for Prince Fielder after the first baseman shot a single into right field.
With the Crew down to their last out, Escobar got a great jump off Heath Bell and swiped second base. Mike Cameron would foul out to end the game, but it was great to see Escobar get acclimated to the game so quickly.
In his first career start, Escobar and the Brewers got off to a quick start offensively and ended up hitting five home runs on the afternoon in a 12-9 victory.
Escobar had just one hit in four at-bats, but scorched the ball to left field on one occasion and made the Padres hustle on a routine ground out.
His one hit was an infield hit and was a sneak preview of the speed Escobar will bring to the top of the Brewers lineup for years to come.
In his second start, the Brewers’ offense continued to stay hot as they crushed ace Wandy Rodriguez for eight runs in the first inning of an 11-2 victory at Miller Park.
Escobar reached base twice on the night with a walk and a single and showed more patience at the plate.
Tonight, Escobar stayed on the breaking ball extremely well that resulted in two hits. He also went from first to third on a single from Felipe Lopez in the second inning. Running on the play and never slowing down, Escobar did not even draw a throw from Carlos Lee.
He scored twice on the night, and the little plays that Escobar has produced has made things exciting in Milwaukee again. Many have said he will be a future Gold Glover, and he has made good on all seven chances he has had in the field.
While it will take a small miracle to get the Brewers to the playoffs this season, the whole atmosphere at Miller Park has seemed different over the last three games.
Not surprisingly, Escobar has started all three games.
Destined for the leadoff spot, Escobar has hit in the nine hole during his first three starts on the team. There, he has reached base in five of 12 plate appearances, good for a .417 OBP. He has done everything right in this small sampling of game time.
While I wouldn’t have called Escobar a bust had he performed poorly in his first three games (and pinch running performance), I won’t dub him ready for Cooperstown just yet. However, it is nice to see the top prospect in the organization play well in his first starts.
Last season, he was a September call-up and had two hits in four at-bats for the Brewers. He seems much more relaxed and patient this season, as seen by his stats.
When looking at Escobar, he looks like a ballplayer that knows what he is doing out there. He has been highly touted his whole career and is now making good on all those scouting reports.
The real question is what general manager Doug Melvin will do with former shortstop J.J. Hardy next season. He will not be a free agent until 2011 because of his demotion this season, and many believe Melvin will look to trade him this off season.
One has to wonder how far Hardy’s stock has fallen with his poor season, but with Escobar taking over, getting something is better than nothing.
If Escobar can keep hitting like he has and continues his perfect glove in the field, there’s no reason to believe the Brewers will have to worry about who is starting at shortstop for at least the next five years.