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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Decade Team: Third Base, Eduardo Escobar

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Despite playing only 212 games, the lovable Eduardo Escobar is the third baseman of the decade.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The result here is probably not a surprise to anyone, though it was a really close race after one day, with Jake Lamb and Eduardo Escobar being separated by only 4 votes at times. However, Escobar surged ahead and his lead got bigger as the week went on. The end result was pretty definitive, with Escobar receiving 55% of the vote and Lamb finishing second at 31%. As mentioned in the original article, Lamb never seemed to win over the fan base despite playing the most games by a hefty margin. The last two injury-riddled years seemed to really dampen the narrative around Lamb. And then in came Escobar with his electric personality and the rest is history.

Eduardo Escobar was an under-the-radar trade deadline acquisition in the middle of the 2018 season. Escobar had broken out in Minnesota, with a solid .274/.338/.514 line good for a 125 wRC+. At the time of the trade, the Dbacks were only 1.5 games back of the Dodgers for the NL West and a half game behind the Braves for the NL Wild Card. Clearly trying to upgrade the roster for a second-half playoff push, Arizona sent three minor leaguers to Minnesota for a half season of Escobar: RHP Jhoan Duran and outfielders Ernie De La Trinidad and Gabriel Maciel.

At the time, the cost seemed pretty minor as none of the group were significant prospects. And while that still remains true for De La Trinidad and Maciel, Jhoan Duran has improved considerably and is now the #4 prospect in a loaded Twins system per FanGraphs. Duran has been showing a 70-grade fastball, topping at 101 MPH and has an electric arm. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter but his command might hinder him to a bullpen role. With the way Escobar has performed and his subsequent extension giving AZ 3.5 years of Escobar, it is unlikely that the Dbacks will end up regretting this trade. But it might end up being a big win for the Twins, too.

Escobar initially came up in 2011, primarily as a glove-first infielder for the White Sox. He was traded to the Twins in 2012 as part of the Fancisco Liriano trade, where he was a utility guy, logging innings at SS, 2B, 3B, LF, CF, RF, and even catching an inning and pitching in inning. In fact, he has logged at least 0.1 inning at every position except 1B in his MLB career:

P: 1.0 Innings

C: 1.0

2B: 594.2

SS: 2549.1

3B: 3627.2

LF: 267.0

CF: 8.0

RF: 0.1

It’s really quite remarkable how versatile Escobar was and that let him stick around with the Twins despite a sub-par bat. In 2014 and 2015, Escobar had a breakthrough with the bat and put up BABIP-driven 101 wRC+ seasons. Combined with his defense versatility, Escobar turned out to be a solid role player but not someone you’d go out of your way to trade for, especially if you’re seeking an offensive upgrade.

However, in 2017, Escobar turned out to be another one of those “launch angle” success stories. Escobar retooled his swing to hit for more flyballs and therefore, more power - raising his flyball percentage from 37.4% in 2015 to 45.3% in 2017. While his first season with the change, 2017, turned out to only be a so-so season (97 wRC+), Escobar really broke out in 2018, hitting .274/.334/.489 with 15 HRs, good for a career-high 125 wRC+ at the time of the trade to Arizona.

Escobar’s success with the launch angle change wasn’t from hitting the ball dramatically harder - his average exit velocity was still in the mid-80s, which was and still-is below league average. Usually, when batters make this change for power, they tend to see a moderate increase to their strikeout rate. In Escobar’s case, he didn’t really strike out much more. In fact, in his two seasons in Arizona so far, he has posted strikeout rates below his career average (15.7% in 2018 and 18.6% in 2019). The real secret to Escobar’s success was his approach at the plate: much like Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar became much more aggressive at swinging at pitches he could handle. He went from swinging at ~65-68% of pitches in the strike zone to swinging closer to 71-73% after the change. As a result of this, pitchers quickly stopped throwing him as many strikes (Zone% went from 46.5% in 2017 down to 38.6% in 2019) and Eduardo would adapt by walking more.

Thanks to this breakout, Escobar saw himself as one of those “rentals” that you hear about (see: JD Martinez). Despite all this, Escobar’s 2018 with Arizona was actually only average: a .268/.327/.444 line for a 104 wRC+ with solid defense at third, good for 1.1 fWAR/1.0 bWAR. In fact, you could argue that this could be seen as a mild disappointment, as Escobar was primarily sought to be an offensive upgrade. Diamondbacks third basemen had an 80 wRC+ prior to the trade, so it was still an upgrade, but it wasn’t the 125 wRC+ he had shown in Minnesota. Unfortunately, despite being tied with the Dodgers for 1st in the NL West on September 1st, the team collapsed in September, going 8-19 and missing the playoffs entirely.

This could very well have been the end of Escobar’s time in AZ but he and the team had other ideas. Eduardo signed a 3 year, $21 million dollar deal with Arizona on October 22nd, 2018 - less than a month after the Dbacks’s season had ended. In fact, this was so early, it was before the World Series had even begun. Escobar loved his time in Arizona so much that he signed an extension without even exploring the free agent market, where he likely could have made more money. This is what Escobar had to say:

“I think the most important thing for me coming here was the people here,’’ Escobar said. “There are great people here. Everybody took care of my family and that’s the most important thing for me. I signed it because I like it here. I’m happy to be here and ready for next season.’’

Escobar would go on to reward Arizona right away with the contract and had the best season of his career in 2019. He would post 3.7 fWAR and 4.2 bWAR, thanks to an above-average bat (109 wRC+) and average-to-good defense at third. Escobar led the MLB in triples with 10 and set career highs with 171 hits, 35 HR, and 118 RBI. Escobar was every bit a monster in the middle of the lineup.

Escobar contributed to so many good moments in 2019 that it’s impossible to pick just one. So let’s just look at a bunch of 2019 highlights:

But it’s not just his performance that won Arizona fans over in just a short period of time. It’s also his charisma, his charm, his just-infectious personality. In a quote with The Athletic, Torey Louvello had this to say about Eduardo Escobar:

“(Personality is) a huge gift that he has,” Lovullo said. “He says the right things the right way at the right time. There’s an incredible intensity to him also when we’re in between the white lines and it’s go time. There’s nobody more focused than he is. But when it’s time to lighten things up and be a good teammate or say the right thing at the right time, he’s got a great personality.”

But personality is something you can’t quantify and words will not do enough justice for why we love Escobar so much. Winning a majority of the vote in only 1.5 seasons explains it perfectly.

In the end, we’ll leave it with this excellent video: The Journey, Eduardo Escobar:

The Journey | Eduardo Escobar

There's no one quite like Eduardo Escobar, and he's all ours.

Posted by Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, November 21, 2019