In 2017, Eduardo Escobar had a break out season. He smashed 21 home runs with nine of them coming in September/October. Escobar was probably not on anyone’s radar and for good reason. Before that home run surge he’s only hit double digits once and that was in 2015. This year he already has seven and is showing everyone that the power at the end of last year is for real. To see how far he’s come let’s compare the past season’s numbers.
You don’t hit 21 home runs for the first time in your career unless your approach changes. I can tell you that he’s never had more than five home runs in the minors so he’s come a long way. He’s been pretty consistent with his walk and strikeout rates throughout his career, but is walking more this year. Let’s see how his plate discipline checks out.
There are some red flags as he is swinging more at pitches off the plate and his swinging strike rate is just as high as last year. Maybe the walk rate and average will both go down a bit as he is being aggressive at the plate. I can’t find any reasons here to suggest he is a better hitter than in the past so it’s time to see how he’s hitting the ball.
Oh my, this looks beautiful. If you are a power hitter this is a great profile to have, ground balls low and fly balls high. The home run to fly ball ratio is definitely sustainable. Pull rate and hard contact are up which tells me the power is legit. Statcast shows that his xAVG is .260 while his xSLG is .502 and one downside is his average exit velocity is very low at 85.9 MPH. That velocity is not that great but his launch angle combats it. His average launch angle has steadily increased from 13.5° in 2015, to 15.0° in 2016, then to 17.5° in 2017, and finally 21.8° this year. Escobar is making the conscious effort to hit more fly balls and so far it’s working.
Eduardo Escobar is building off of last year’s September/October home run spike. With a new launch angle he is hitting the ball in the air more frequently and is being rewarded. It will be interesting to see if he can keep his ground ball to fly ball ratio so low. Some regression is expected due to the high fly ball tendency mixed with his low exit velocity. With a strong Minnesota Twins lineup he should be able to produce career numbers. Escobar is an unlikely source for home runs, but it’s time to take him seriously.