About 14 weeks ago, I sat at this computer and wrote about how the Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts should have been selected to start for the American League in this year’s All-Star Game. Instead, Ned Yost, the Kansas City Royals manager in charge of the AL roster, selected his own shortstop Alcides Escobar. If we had the opportunity to be the runner-up manager in the World Series, I guess that we would have that same prerogative.
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However, at present, it would be hard to find anyone outside of Missouri who believes that the choice was representative of the best shortstop in the league, not then and not now.
While Bogaerts is up for the 2015 MLB Breakout Player of the Year Award, Escobar’s outfielder teammate Lorenzo Cain and a host of other players are battling it out for the selection, this time.
Escobar has been left out of the running, but he is up for the award for the best defensive player for the regular season. His competition is between Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado Rockies), Cain, Brandon Crawford (SS, San Francisco Giants), MVP frontrunner Josh Donaldson (3B, Toronto Blue Jays), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS, Miami Marlins), Kevin Kiermaier (OF, Tampa Bay Rays), Manny Machado (3B, Baltimore Orioles), Yadier Molina (C, St. Louis Cardinals), Kevin Pillar (OF, Toronto Blue Jays), Buster Posey (C, San Francisco Giants), Andrelton Simmons (SS, Atlanta Braves), and another teammate Salvador Perez (C, Kansas City Royals).
Oct 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar throws to first base against the Houston Astros in game two of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Considering that most of that field is either a future hall-of-famer, a Gold Glove candidate in their respective positions, or have better fielding percentages and range factors than Escobar, it was likely an honor for him just to be nominated.
When you compare Bogaerts’ glove to Escobar’s, it’s at least a decent race, but it still gives Bogaerts the edge. Bogaerts had a .984 fielding percentage, a range factor of 4.26, 236 putouts, and 429 assists, this year. Escobar posted a .980 FLD PCT, a 4.28 range factor, 217 putouts, and 417 assists.
Bogaerts loses to Escobar in only one category by 0.09, which seems immaterial compared to their respective infield teammates. Bogaerts had to play with Pablo Sandoval flopping around third base, if he wasn’t injured or ‘dehydrated’; a revolving door of second basemen, normally the utility player Brock Holt; and Travis Shaw, a rookie prospect who took over at the trade deadline when Mike Napoli was shipped off to the Texas Rangers. And, that’s before 2016, where Bogaerts may have Hanley Ramirez to throw to at first. Let the circus begin! Escobar has had solid defensive players to match him in the Royals’ infield, including newly-acquired Ben Zobrist, Omar Infante, Eric Hosmer, and Kendrys Morales. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is the only question mark, with a .969 fielding percentage, but his 12 errors is still better than the .949 and 15 errors of Sandoval.
That’s just on defense.
On offense, it’s not even close between Bogaerts and Escobar. Bogaerts hit .320 with seven home runs, 81 RBIs, 84 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. Escobar’s All-Star season included posting a .257 batting average, three homers, 47 RBIs, 76 runs scored, and 17 stolen bases. A .614 OPS for Escobar pales in comparison to Bogaerts’ .776.
On most nights, Bogaerts had to carry the team on offense, leading the team in batting average and total hits, while being second only to David Ortiz and Mookie Betts in RBIs and runs scored, respectively. The closest that Escobar is to the lead on his team in any of these categories is fourth in runs scored, on a team that didn’t struggle to get into the postseason.
Escobar may have been the name that Yost trusted for the All-Star Game the most, but the clear winner for the best shortstop between the two men was Bogaerts. Hopefully, it will not be foreshadowing of more selection snubs in the soon or distant future.
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