- Rating: 3.40
- Age: 31 years old
- 2020 stats: 54 games, 222 PA, .212/.270/.335, 14 XBH, 4 HR, 61 OPS+, 56 wRC+, -0.8 bWAR, -0.5 fWAR
- 2020 salary: $7,166,666 ($2,759,259 prorated)
- 2021 status: Final year of three year $21 million dollar contract, $7,666,668 salary
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. If you wanted to summarize the 2020 Arizona Diamondbacks’ season by reviewing just one player, Eduardo Escobar would be the man to discuss. I took the liberty in writing his review last season at #2 in our rankings, but he now finds himself at the bottom at #35. Ouch. What exactly went wrong? He did wake up hospitalized in late December of 2019 after fainting at home and was subsequently diagnosed with brain swelling. It would be natural to speculate if that could have had something to do with his performance. However, he played 54 games in a COVID-19 shortened 60 game season, so it doesn’t appear to be the most logical explanation. Escobar continued to post videos of his vigorous off season workouts after the incident giving the appearance that all was well. When the season eventually did get underway later in the season, his performance was a far cry from what we as fans have grown accustomed to.
Expectations and excitement were high for our always smiling third baseman. Always the catalyst for team chemistry, he walked around the clubhouse during summer camp repeatedly saying “Congratulations! I’m proud of you!” to teammates and coaches. Torey Lovullo even had a shirt made that was branded with the slogan. We had no reason to suspect he would struggle as mightily on the field as he did.
Escobar never looked quite himself at the plate throughout the season, and as the weeks went by and his performance continued to suffer the frustration visibly grew. He could not lay off of pitches up in the zone or even manage to make contact with them, a weakness opposing pitchers exploited ruthlessly.
Above you see two separate “heat maps” for Eduardo Escobar based on the 2020 season. The top chart is Escobar’s K% by zone and the bottom is his contact % by zone. Ignoring the obvious results of everything outsize of the strike zone take a look at his results in the upper third of the strike zone, and you will notice both a poorer contact rate and higher K% up by the letters on his jersey. And we saw this over and over again in this abbreviated season. As a result, he struggled to make solid contact as often as he had in seasons past. Looking specifically at his batted ball profile, his barrel % was 8.3% in 2017 and 2018 and 7% in 2019. MLB average is 6.4%, but Escobar’s barrel % plummeted to 5.5% in 2020. Escobar went from being above league average in barrel % from 2017 through 2019 to below league average in 2020. Barrel % is another method of measuring quality contact based on a combination of launch angle and exit velocity.
Tory Lovullo commented towards the conclusion of the regular season that perhaps Escobar was not in his best possible shape to begin the year, and given a full 162 games his results may have come around eventually.
“Yes, it was a concern,” Lovullo said. “Yes, it was addressed. And, yes, I would like to see it change. I think baseball is a big core game; you’re constantly spinning and bending,” Lovullo said. “I’ve seen it improve, but I think it could be done better.” -Lovullo referring to Escobar’s weight via AZ Central
Quite frankly, the only positive memory I have of his play on the field this season came on August 16th. I was in the middle of filming a Brute Side Chat with Turambar, Angry Dad, and Edbigghead. The Diamondbacks were trailing the San Diego Padres 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth with two outs. Arizona had been leading for most of the game until Junior Guerra relieved Robbie Ray to begin the top of the sixth. Guerra quickly gave up three runs and the lead. My fellow Brutes and I were watching loosely during filming hoping that Arizona would find a way to come back and win their eighth game in the previous ten contests to get back to .500. Escobar came to the plate with runners on first and second, and just as Turambar was asking me for the latest game update Escobar smacked this shot to right field to regain the 5-4 lead.
Believe me when I say that I don’t intend to go all “What have you done for me lately” in this review of Eduardo Escobar. He is genuinely one of my most favorite D’backs, and it was disappointing for me to watch him struggle as much as he did this season. I don’t believe that what we saw from him on the field this season is what we should expect in the final year of his contract. This year was a loss for many different reasons, and it would be best for Eduardo to turn the page as quickly as possible. As we all should. 2021 may very well be his final season in a D’backs uniform as the team continues to get younger and look for ways to trim payroll.