The LA Angels made a trade last off-season sending promising reliever Trevor Gott and minor league prospect Michael Brady to the Washington Nationals for third baseman Yunel Escobar. Many Angels fans weren’t sure about the move.
When the LA Angels started Spring Training in 2016, many were wondering if Escobar, who was coming off a career year in 2015, would follow it up in 2016. Escobar showed right away that 2015 was no fluke hitting .306 with three homers and driving in 13 runs in the first two months of the season.
By the end of the season no one was questioning Escobar’s value as he finished the year with a .304 batting average with five homers and 39 RBI’s and solidified the lead-off spot with a .355 OBP.
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Escobar’s only liability was his defense as he made 19 errors 302 chances which equates to a .937 fielding percentage. While that is not great for sure, his offense and ability to get on base offensively more than made up for it. Also it was only the second year of playing third base so Escobar is still learning on the fly. He will undoubtedly improve the more he plays the position and gets comfortable.
With the Angels making a lot of off-season moves this winter, the question will be how much Escobar will play third base this season. Jefry Marte is a man with a solid bat that has no position at the moment that will probably see some action at third this season. The Angels also signed free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena who will also see some action at third as well this season.
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If Escobar continues to hit well and get on base at a high clip manager Mike Scioscia will find a way to get Escobar’s bat in the line-up maybe even at the designated hitter spot. This would make the Angels defense stronger as Valbuena has a .968 fielding percentage in 490 games played at third base. Marte has a .953 fielding percentage in limited action at third. Both Valbuena and Marte have better defensive numbers than Escobar at third.
With all this being said I still expect Escobar to play around 120 games at third base and probably up to 20 more at DH. I expect Escobar’s numbers to be similar to last season’s stats. Here is my projections:
Yunel Escobar .302 batting average with nine homers and 58 RBI’s with a .344 OBP.
I think the Angels improved line-up will give Escobar more opportunity to drive in runs and I also expect him to get some opportunities to drive in runs as will possibly move to the second spot in the line-up some games.
The one question is whether the Angels will use Escobar as trade bait during the season with him being a potential free agent after the 2017 season. Only time will tell.
The simple fact is that Escobar is a valuable piece for the Angels in 2017.