Here is perhaps the single biggest positional question mark that the Brewers have going into today’s opener. After J.J. Hardy‘s terrible 2009, the Brewers decided to go all-in on Alcides Escobar for the 2010 season. It’s a big gamble, as Escobar just turned in a .293/.353/.409 season at AAA – which would be very encouraging, if not for the fact that it’s almost completely based on a .343 BABIP. Really, what we see here is that Escobar, to date, has been sorely lacking in both power and plate discipline, and so he will be depending on his ability to find holes in the outfield and use his speed to run out infield hits.
That very well could work, as his speed on the bases and his defense will almost certainly provide great value to the Brewers. Scouts have ranted and raved about his defense for a few years now, and his glove is really the sole reason that Hardy is a Minnesota Twin and Carlos Gomez is a Milwaukee Brewer. If he can really be the plus shortstop that he’s supposed to be, he’s not going to have to hit much to be an average player, although this team probably needs him to be more than that in order to make the playoffs.
Personally, I will be very surprised if Escobar manages to SLG .400 without some sort of extremely lucky BABIP. If we get a line similar to his 2009 in Milwaukee (.304/.333/.368), I’ll be pretty happy, although I would like a few more walks, as he needs to be on base in order to use that speed. That said, I’m excited for Alcides, but I’ll also be surprised if he has a better season than J.J. Hardy, as I was a huge Hardy fan and there are a variety of statistical clues that last year was an anomaly for Hardy. Escobar’s bat will be key to Milwaukee’s playoff chances.
If Escobar goes down with an injury, it will have to be Counsell at shortstop. There isn’t another major league ready player in the Brewers organization who is able to play SS, and Counsell plays it well enough that it wouldn’t be too big of a dropoff from Escobar.
Josh Prince seems to be the highest prospect at SS, but he had a poor year last year with Wisconsin, and as such Brewerfan.net dropped him four spots in their power 50 prospect rankings.