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Eduardo Escobar as a D-back

Did the D-backs improve the team?

Eduardo Escobar
Eduardo Escobar
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

What did the trade cost?

The D-backs traded away three prospects: ranked 11th, 19th, and unranked. Their futures include huge uncertainty regarding their levels of success. If I had made a list of prospects not to trade, it would not include any of the three prospects. Let’s look at three viewpoints:

  • “Maciel is a really underrated prospect. Plus defender at a plus position, plus contact skills and plus plate discipline. And he’s doing all of that at age 19 in A ball....” blue_bulldog
  • “I agree it’s an overpay in terms of pure prospect value going the other way for a 2 WAR guy, but the above mitigating factor plus the “window” issues brought up by others certainly must be factors here in the decision making calculus. “ Jack Sommers
  • “In some ways, Eduardo can be seen as a poor man’s version of Manny Machado. By bWAR, he has been worth only about half a win less (2.6 bWAR vs. 3.2) this season, but is earning only about 30% of Machado’s salary ($4.85m vs. $16m)...” Jim McLennan

The cost in dollars was an underpay. The cost is prospects was a small overpay. Although one prospect may be an “underrated prospect,” it is unlikely that the trade did any significant harm.

The question.

This season in the NL West, three teams are competitive – Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. The D-backs are generally projected to win 87 games (although I’m sticking with my projection of 90 wins). It is not yet clear whether that result will earn a spot in the playoffs.

Because this trade did not significantly harm the future of the D-backs, and because of the close race for the playoffs, if the trade improved the team, then the D-backs won the trade.

Let’s consider, “Did the trade improve the team?”

Will Escobar improve defense at third base?

With Lamb on the DL, third base is a position that had potential for improvement.

Escobar’s average Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (UZR/150) for 2016, 2017, and 2018, weighted by innings each season, was

  • + 0.2 Third base
  • - 6.8 Shortstop
  • -16.3 Second base

He is above average at third base! And his defense is better than Lamb’s (Lamb’s innings-weighted average (2016-2018) UZR/150 at third base was negative 7.6). At third base, he will improve the team defense. Also, he can fill-in at shortstop. Surprisingly, second base would be the worst position for him.

Will Escobar improve the D-back offense?

First, let’s compare him to other D-backs.

  • Slugging: This season, Eduardo Escobar’s slugging percent of .514 is better than all D-backs except Pollock (.574) and Goldschmidt(.519).
  • On-Base-Percent (OBP). This season, Eduardo Escobar’s OBP of .338 is better than all D-backs except Goldschmidt (.385), Descalso (.380), Pollock (.358), and Peralta (.346).
  • Hitting lefties: “Escobar certainly represents a better option against left-handed pitching, though his splits are relatively small there (+24 points of OPS over his career, compared to Lamb’s chasm of -281 points).” Jim McLennan in this article.
  • Hard hitting percentage compared to Paul Goldschmidt: Although his hard hit percentage (Statcast 28.6%, FanGraphs 38.9%) is a career high, he does not approach Paul Goldschmidt’s power (Statcast 44.5%, FanGraphs 47.5%). Nevertheless, Eduardo Escobar has a hitting characteristic that will play well in Chase Field: This season his average batted ball distance of 201 feet ranks 16th in the Majors, and is better than Goldschmidt’s average of 195 feet. (Source: Statcast)

Second, let’s look at BABIP, which often regresses to previous levels. This season, Eduardo’s Escobar’s BABIP is .325. In the Majors, his BABIP has ranged from .279 to .336. Because his BABIP is not outside his usual range, I do not anticipate regression. And because he will be playing at Chase with the roomy outfield, his excellent average of batted ball distance should improve his BABIP.

The answer.

The defense at third will improve greatly because Escobar’s UZR/150 is better. The offense will improve because Eduardo Escobar ranks high in slugging, on-base-percent, and average batted ball distance.

The trade improved the Diamondbacks.