Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sox claim injured Escobar on waivers from Tribe

The White Sox claimed 25-year-old outfielder Alex Escobar on waivers Tuesday. Escobar, out for the year with a broken foot, obviously won’t be helping the Sox much this season.

Escobar was once the top prospect in the Mets’ minor league system before being traded to Cleveland as part of the Roberto Alomar deal. Returning from a knee injury that cost him all of the 2002 season, Escobar hit .251/.296/.472 at AAA Buffalo and .273/.324/.444 in 28 games with the big club last year.

Although Escobar was hitting only .211/.318/.309 in 46 games and 152 at-bats for the Indians this season, and has missed almost half of his previous six seasons to injuries, this is probably a good pick-up for the Sox.

Escobar can hit for power, still has a good arm and can still play all three outfield positions. That means he can at least good fourth outfielder, which means he can put Timo Perez out of work. (That's a good thing.)

But that’s the least of what Escobar can do. Though his superstar potential probably evaporated after his knee injury and before he went to Cleveland, Escobar could still have a late-starting Jose Cruz Jr. type of career. Here is a look at what Cruz has done.

Age Batting Line
23 .248/.315/.499
24 .253/.354/.403
25 .241/.358/.433
26 .242/.323/.466
27 .274/.326/.530
28 .245/.317/.438
29 .250/.366/.414

Cruz at age 23, 27 and 28 has a similar profile to what Escobar has done with the Indians – higher slugging percentages (but nothing unreal) and lower batting and on-base averages. Cruz has also had seasons where he’s gotten on base more, which he’s doing again this year with a .237/.351/.439.

Looking at Escobar’s numbers this year, with an OBP more than 100 points better than his batting average, makes you think he could have some years like Cruz at age 24, 25, 26, 29 and 30.

Of course, Escobar will have to stay healthy to make that happen. So far, that’s been a problem.

But in terms of qualifying the risk against the potential payoff, the Sox really can’t lose.

If Escobar gets hurt again, or just plain sucks rocks, all it cost Chicago was the price of a waiver claim and maybe a temporary spot on the 40-man roster.

If Escobar does grow up into the next Jose Cruz Jr., well, that’s not a superstar, but that’s a solid player the Sox don’t have to spend big bucks on through free agency or give up big prospects for should the need arise. (It did, after all, come up at this year’s trade deadline that the Sox were looking at Cruz…)

It's hard not to see how this is a smart move.

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