ELVIS ESCOBAR, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 6, 1994
Height: 5′ 9″
Signed: Int. FA, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2011
How Acquired: Int. FA
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Escobar was one of the Pirates’ two top international signings in 2011, the other being Harold Ramirez, also an outfielder. Oddly, the two of them were born on the same day. Escobar is a line drive hitter who didn’t project to have great power; his size raised some questions about his ceiling, but he had among the best current hitting ability among available Latin American prospects at the time. As a pro, Escobar was hampered by impatience at the plate. The Pirates tried to turn him into a base stealer, but he was really bad at it. He was a good defensive outfielder with a strong arm who could handle center field. By 2018, he appeared to have hit a wall as a position player and the Pirates moved him to the mound, where he showed a mid-90s fastball. He also throws a big-breaking curve and a change.
The Pirates sent Escobar straight to the GCL, which is an aggressive placement for a 17-year-old. He handled it well and finished the season strongly, hitting 324/387/456 in August. He played center all season and showed good enough range. He had an extreme reverse platoon split, with a .999 OPS against LHPs and .630 against RHPs, but that probably means little at this point.
For some reason, Escobar played only sporadically in July and August, as the Pirates chose to go mainly with Jeff Roy regularly, even though Roy probably profiles as an organizational player. Escobar finally started playing regularly in August. He ended up spending most of his time in right. He didn’t hit especially well, although it has to be remembered that he was in only his second pro season and played the season at age 18. Much of the trouble occurred in July, when he posted a .475 OPS. He obviously had significant issues with plate discipline. Escobar hit RHPs and LHPs almost exactly the same.
Escobar opened the season in West Virginia and ended up playing regularly when the team’s entire starting outfield was wiped out by injuries. He split his time between center and right, and struggled to hit, with terrible plate discipline. The Pirates eventually moved him down to Jamestown, where he played regularly in center. He got on a hot streak in the first half of August and had his average up over .320, but he slumped after that. Escobar did finally make some progress with his plate discipline. On the season, he had problems with LHPs, posting just a .434 OPS against them.
Escobar returned to West Virginia and finally made significant progress, hitting for average and gap power, and cutting down sharply on strikeouts while slightly improving his walk rate. He struggled against LHPs, posting only a .594 OPS against them, compared to .785 against RHPs. Escobar spent the majority of his time in left, but played center whenever Tito Polo wasn’t there. He showed decent range in the outfield, but his base stealing efforts were largely a disaster.
With Polo returning to West Virginia, Escobar opened the season as the center fielder for Bradenton. He didn’t hit as well as the previous year, but some of that was probably due to the much tougher hitting environment in the Florida State League. His slash line compared well enough to the league averages of 250/321/356, although it would have helped if he’d drawn walks at a reasonable rate. When Polo got promoted, Escobar moved to the outfield corners, mainly left. Then when the Pirates traded Ramirez in the Francisco Liriano salary dump trade at the end of July, they promoted Escobar to Altoona to take Ramirez’ place in center. The promotion probably was eased by a very strong July in which Escobar had an .868 OPS. It was his only monthly OPS above .681. Escobar just held his own at the plate in AA. He continued to struggle against LHPs, posting just a .485 OPS against them between the two levels.
Escobar was be eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the second time, but wasn’t selected. He returned to Altoona and played most of the time, primarily in center. He hit about as he has in the past, for good average with few walks and not a lot of power. He played a big role in Altoona’s post-season success, which got them the Eastern League title.
A: 3-2-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 26.0 IP, 4.2 BB/9, 9.7 K/9
Escobar returned to Altoona and struggled badly. In late May, he made a mound appearance in a blowout loss and showed a mid-90s fastball, so the Pirates decided to make him a pitcher. They sent him initially to West Virginia, where he did very well despite some modest control issues. He made two late-season appearances with Altoona, one of which went well and one of which didn’t. (The AA stats include that late May outing, in which Escobar surrendered three runs without recording an out.)
Escobar was eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, but before that came about he signed a minor league deal with the Pirates for 2019. He was hurt at the start of the 2019 season and originally wasn’t supposed to be out long, but he didn’t return until late July. He worked his way up to AA, pitched well in three outings there, and made one appearance in AAA.
Escobar is eligible for free agency again unless the Pirates put him on the 40-man roster. They aren’t likely to do that, but hopefully they’ll be able to sign him to a minor league deal for 2020.
|2019: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $570,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2019
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|July 3, 2011: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.|